Define: Abortive Child

Abortive Child
Abortive Child
Quick Summary of Abortive Child

An abortive child, also known as a stillborn child, refers to a baby that is born prematurely and cannot survive for more than 24 hours. This terminology is utilised in civil law.

What is the dictionary definition of Abortive Child?
Dictionary Definition of Abortive Child

In civil law, the term “abortive child” is used to describe a child who is stillborn or born so prematurely that it does not survive beyond 24 hours. For instance, if a woman gives birth to a baby who is either stillborn or dies shortly after birth, that child would be classified as an abortive child. This term holds significance in legal matters like inheritance and property rights, as an abortive child may not have the same entitlements as a child who lives for a longer duration.

Full Definition Of Abortive Child

The term “abortive child” refers to a foetus that has been aborted. The legal framework surrounding abortion is complex and varies significantly across different jurisdictions. In British English, the term “abortive child” is not commonly used, and the legal terminology typically centres around “abortion” or “termination of pregnancy.” This legal overview will explore the relevant laws, ethical considerations, and societal implications of abortion within the context of the United Kingdom.

Historical Background

The legal status of abortion in the UK has evolved significantly over the centuries. Before the 19th century, abortion was not extensively legislated, and practices varied. However, the introduction of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 marked a significant shift, criminalising abortion and prescribing severe penalties for those involved.

The 20th century saw increased advocacy for women’s rights and bodily autonomy, leading to the Abortion Act of 1967, which liberalised abortion laws under certain conditions. This Act remains the cornerstone of abortion law in England, Scotland, and Wales, though it has been subject to amendments and ongoing debates.

The Abortion Act 1967

The Abortion Act 1967 is the primary legislation governing abortion in the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, which had different legal provisions until the recent changes in 2019. The Act permits abortion under specific circumstances, provided certain conditions are met. Key provisions include:

  1. Grounds for Abortion: The Act allows for abortion if two registered medical practitioners agree that:
    • Continuing the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or existing children than terminating it.
    • There is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities.
  2. Time Limits: Abortion is generally permitted up to 24 weeks of gestation. However, exceptions exist where the mother’s life is at risk or in cases of severe foetal abnormalities.
  3. Consent and Counselling: The Act emphasises the importance of informed consent. Counselling services are often recommended to ensure that the decision is made with full understanding and consideration of the consequences.

Amendments and Developments

Several amendments have been made to the Abortion Act of 1967 to address evolving societal and medical contexts. Notably:

  • The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 revised the gestational limit from 28 to 24 weeks, reflecting advancements in neonatal care and viability outside the womb.
  • The Health and Social Care Act 2012 introduced measures to improve the regulation and safety of abortion services.

Abortion in Northern Ireland

Historically, Northern Ireland had stricter abortion laws, governed by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945. These laws only permitted abortion to save the life of the mother. This restrictive framework led to significant legal challenges and public outcry.

In 2019, the UK Parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation, etc.) Act, which decriminalised abortion and brought Northern Ireland’s laws in line with the rest of the UK. The new regulations, effective in March 2020, allow abortion on demand for up to 12 weeks and under specific circumstances thereafter.

Ethical and social Considerations

Abortion is a deeply polarising issue, eliciting strong ethical, moral, and religious sentiments. Key ethical considerations include:

  • Bodily Autonomy: Advocates argue that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, including the choice to terminate a pregnancy.
  • Right to Life: Opponents often cite the right to life of the foetus, considering it a potential human being with inherent rights.
  • Mental and Physical Health: The potential impact of pregnancy and childbirth on a woman’s physical and mental health is a critical factor in the debate.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Access to abortion services can significantly affect women’s socio-economic status, educational opportunities, and career prospects.

Access to Abortion Services

Access to abortion services varies across the UK, with differences in availability and provision. Key aspects include:

  • NHS Services: Abortion services are generally available through the National Health Service (NHS), ensuring that the procedure is free at the point of use.
  • Private Clinics: In addition to NHS services, private clinics offer abortion services, often providing shorter waiting times and additional support services.
  • Telemedicine: The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the introduction of telemedicine for early medical abortions, allowing women to access services remotely. This measure, initially temporary, has been extended due to its success and accessibility.

Legal Challenges and Court Cases

Abortion laws have been subject to numerous legal challenges, reflecting the ongoing societal debate. Notable cases include:

  • R v. Bourne (1938): This landmark case set a precedent for allowing abortion on the grounds of mental health, influencing future legal interpretations.
  • The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) v. the UK Government (2018): This case challenged the restrictive abortion laws in Northern Ireland, ultimately leading to legal reforms.

International Context

The UK’s abortion laws are relatively liberal compared to many other countries. However, international comparisons reveal diverse approaches:

  • Abortion laws vary by state, with the landmark Roe v. Wade (1973) decision federally protecting abortion rights recently overturned by Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation (2022).
  • Ireland: Abortion was highly restricted until the 2018 referendum, which led to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the legalisation of abortion under specific conditions.
  • Poland: Abortion laws in Poland are among the most restrictive in Europe, allowing the procedure only in cases of rape, incest, or severe foetal abnormalities.

Public Opinion and Advocacy

Public opinion on abortion in the UK is divided, with varying levels of support and opposition. Advocacy groups play a crucial role in shaping the debate.

  • Pro-Choice Organisations: Groups such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes International advocate for women’s rights to access safe and legal abortion services.
  • Pro-Life Organisations: Organisations like the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and Life UK oppose abortion, campaigning for stricter laws and greater support for pregnant women.

Future Directions and Reforms

The future of abortion law in the UK may involve further reforms and adaptations to address emerging issues. Potential areas of focus include:

  • Decriminalisation: There is ongoing debate about fully decriminalising abortion and treating it solely as a healthcare issue.
  • Access and Equity: Ensuring equitable access to abortion services across different regions and demographics remains a priority.
  • Support Services: Enhancing support services for women, including counselling and post-abortion care, is critical for holistic healthcare.


The legal framework surrounding abortion in the UK is complex and continually evolving. The Abortion Act 1967, with its subsequent amendments, provides the foundation for current laws, balancing women’s rights with ethical considerations. Ongoing debates, legal challenges, and public opinion shape the future direction of abortion law, ensuring that it remains a dynamic and contentious issue in British society. As societal values and medical practices evolve, the legal landscape will likely continue to adapt, reflecting the diverse perspectives and needs of the population.

Abortive Child FAQ'S

The legality of abortion varies by country and jurisdiction. In some places, it is legal and accessible, while in others it may be restricted or even illegal.

The legal requirements for obtaining an abortion also vary by jurisdiction. In many places, there may be restrictions such as gestational limits, mandatory waiting periods, parental consent for minors, or mandatory counseling.

No, it is generally illegal to force a woman to have an abortion against her will. Women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies and reproductive health.

Laws regarding abortion in cases of rape or incest also vary by jurisdiction. In some places, exceptions may be made to allow women to access abortion services in these circumstances.

In many countries, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their reproductive choices, including having an abortion. However, specific laws may vary, so it is important to consult local labor laws.

The laws regarding parental consent for minors seeking abortion vary by jurisdiction. In some places, minors may be able to obtain an abortion without parental consent through a judicial bypass process.

In many countries, abortion is legal and women cannot be prosecuted for having one. However, in some places where abortion is illegal, women may face legal consequences if they undergo the procedure.

In some jurisdictions, healthcare providers may have the right to refuse to perform abortions based on their religious or moral beliefs. However, laws may require them to refer the patient to another provider who can fulfill their request.

In most countries, it is illegal to deny healthcare services to a woman solely based on her past abortion history. Healthcare providers are generally required to provide non-discriminatory care.

Yes, women may choose to travel to another country where abortion is legal to access the procedure. This is commonly referred to as “abortion tourism.” However, it is important to research and understand the laws and regulations of the destination country before making such arrangements.

Related Phrases

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th June 2024.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

  • Page URL:
  • Modern Language Association (MLA):Abortive Child. DLS Solicitors. June 20 2024
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):Abortive Child. DLS Solicitors. (accessed: June 20 2024).
  • American Psychological Association (APA):Abortive Child. Retrieved June 20 2024, from website:
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

All author posts