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abortion, n.

Quotations:
Pronunciation:  Brit. /əˈbɔːʃn/ , U.S. /əˈbɔrʃ(ə)n/
Forms:  15 abhorsion, 15 aborsion, 15– abortion. (Show Less)
Etymology:  < classical Latin abortiōn-, abortiō (in post-classical Latin also avorsio   (6th cent.)) procuring of miscarriage, miscarriage < abort-  , past participial stem of aborīrī   (see abort v.) + -iō  -ion suffix1.
 1.

 a. The expulsion or removal from the womb of a developing embryo or fetus, spec. (Med.) in the period before it is capable of independent survival, occurring as a result either of natural causes (more fully spontaneous abortion) or of a deliberate act (more fully induced abortion); the early or premature termination of pregnancy with loss of the fetus; an instance of this.In modern general use the unmodified word generally refers to induced abortion, whether caused by drugs or performed surgically, and the term miscarriage is used for spontaneous abortion.
 
contagious, missed, vacuum abortion, etc.: see the first element.

?1537   in tr. Erasmus Declamatio Med. sig. A.vii,   To the phisicians craft he oweth his lyfe, ye whiche as yet hath nat receiued life, whyle thrugh it abortions be prohibeted.
1538   T. Elyot Dict.,   Aborsus, an vntymely byrthe, nighe to the conception: which may be called aborsion.
1547   A. Borde Breuiary of Helthe i. f. ix,   Abhorsion..is when a woman is delyvered of her chylde before her tyme.
1599   R. Roche Eustathia sig. C,   Againe if womb, be subiect to abhorsion, Best hope is bankrupt, by the same extortion.
a1639   J. Spottiswood Hist. Church Scotl. (1677) vii. 477   She became so incensed, as falling into a Fever she made a pitiful Abortion.
1646   Sir T. Browne Pseudodoxia Epidemica 67   Physitions..promise therein a vertue against abortion.
1662   J. Graunt Nat. & Polit. Observ. Bills Mortality viii. 51   Such unlawfull Copulations beget Conceptions but to frustrate them with procured Abortions or secret Murthers.
1726   P. Aubin Lady Lucy iii. 34,   I purchas'd and gave her such Drugs as could cause Abortion, but in vain, and she grew big.
1778   W. Robertson Hist. Amer. (ed. 2) I. iv. 297   The women by the use of certain herbs procure frequent abortions.
1869   W. E. H. Lecky Hist. European Morals II. i. 22   The practice of abortion was one to which few persons in antiquity attached any deep feeling of condemnation.
1888   W. Day Horse xviii. 242   Abortion often results from letting mares out too soon in the morning, when the weather is cold and frosty.
1922   C. C. Van Blarcom Obstetr. Nursing xiii. 309   Induced abortion applies to the termination of pregnancy before the child is viable,..and is performed solely in the interests of the mother, as the fetus is always lost.
1949   H. W. C. Vines Green's Man. Pathol. (ed. 17) xxxvi. 1035   In cases of abortion in the early months, the products of conception may be extruded entire as a red mass of fibrin and clot called a blood-mole.
1969   B. Head When Rain Clouds Gather iv. 53   The young woman had died of a septic womb due to having procured an abortion with a hooked and unsterilized instrument.
1988   J. C. Bell et al. Zoonoses 29   In sheep and goats abortion occurs less frequently than in cattle.
1998   Zest Sept. 41/1   Seventy per cent of abortions could be prevented if the ‘morning-after’ pill was available over the counter at pharmacies.
2007   U.S. News & World Rep. 23 Apr. 32/1   Many conservatives don't trust McCain on issues like tax cuts, abortion, and gay rights.

?1537—2007(Hide quotations)

 
 

 b. fig. Failure or abandonment of a scheme or process; an instance of this.

1610   E. Bolton Elements of Armories xxii. 115   Syr Evstaces supposal of an abortion in Art.
1648   H. Parker Of Free Trade Ep. Ded. sig. A2v,   These reasons kept from abortion this Essay of mine at that time.
1659   W. Chamberlayne Pharonnida v. iv. 162   A strength Enough to make his will confine the length Of their desires, who soon in Council sit But to bewail th' abortion of their wit.
1710   D. Defoe Ess. upon Loans 4   All the Fruit of his Labour, ends in Sterility and Abortion.
1797   W. Godwin Enquirer i. v. 35   Genius [may] terminate in an abortion.
1814   F. Burney Wanderer IV. 58   The abortion of my purpose may have made me appear a mere female mountebank.
1822   Sat. Evening Post 22 June 2/2   The plan being consequently abandoned, the whole scheme ended in abortion.
1887   Eng. Hist. Rev. 2 283   The abortion of parliamentary reform.
1950   R. Strausz-Hupé & S. T. Possony Internat. Relations xiv. 400 (heading)    The abortion of the greatest coup.
1972   Rev. Politics 34 75   Stresemann and Briand disagreed sharply about..who was responsible for the abortion of the scheme.
2005   Canberra Times (Nexis) 1 Feb. a7   The public should be ever grateful for the scheme's abortion.

1610—2005(Hide quotations)

 

 2. An aborted or miscarried fetus; an abortus (now rare). Also fig. and in figurative context: a person or thing not fully or properly formed; an ill-conceived or badly executed action or undertaking; a monstrosity.

1581   T. Newton in T. Newton et al. tr. Seneca 10 Trag. Ded. sig. A3v,   I confesse to be an vnflidge nestling, vnhable to flye: an vnnatural abortion, and an vnperfect Embryon.
1604   T. Bilson Surv. Christs Sufferings 175   What kind of creatures, I pray you, call you those abortions and scapes, that passe from their mothers, when they are yet but seede or blood, before the body be framed?
1640   Bp. J. Hall Christian Moderation i. 88   Those bodily delights..alas! what poore abortions they are, dead in the very conception.
1743   H. Fielding Ess. Conversat. in Misc. I. 122   These Men..are no less Monsters than the most wanton Abortions, or extravagant Births.
1775   Johnson Taxation No Tyranny 4   These antipatriotic prejudices are the abortions of Folly impregnated by Faction.
1858   N. Hawthorne Fr. & Ital. Jrnls. I. 171   A little abortion of a man..hastened before us.
1872   O. W. Holmes Poet at Breakfast-table x. 315   The doctrine of man's being a blighted abortion, a miserable disappointment to his Creator.
1878   H. M. Stanley Through Dark Continent II. iii. 74   His feet are monstrous abortions.
1929   V. Woolf Room of one's Own (1930) vi. 155   The Fascist poem, one may fear, will be a horrid little abortion such as one sees in a glass jar in the museum of some county town.
1951   L. MacNeice tr. Goethe Faust i. 117   O you abortion of fire and muck!
1990   World Outside: Career Guide 159/1   My introduction to advertising came to consist of thinking up such abortions as banana creme topping.

1581—1990(Hide quotations)

 

 3. Biol. Arrested or imperfect development of a structure, esp. a reproductive structure of a plant, so that it either remains a rudiment or disappears entirely; an instance of this.

[1725   R. Bradley Chomel's Dictionaire Œconomique,   Abortion, a Term used by the French in respect to fruits being brought forth before their time.]
1763   J. Mills tr. M. Tillet in New Syst. Pract. Husbandry II. 427   The abortion of the grains is sometimes quite completed, before the ear comes out of its hood.
1829   J. Lindley Synopsis Brit. Flora 73   Fruit fleshy, with 3 or 4, or in consequence of abortion 2, fibrous indehiscent stones.
1836   A. Gray Elements Bot. iv. 166   All exceptions to this regular correspondence in the number and relative position of the organs of a flower, are owing to the multipolication or abortion of parts.
1859   C. Darwin Origin of Species v. 145   The difference in the ray and central florets..is often accompanied with the abortion of parts of the flower.
1870   G. Rolleston Forms Animal Life 25   The skull of the Common Fowl differs in the abortion of the posterior crus.
1977   J. L. Harper Population Biol. Plants 203   Part of the response to density is a reduction in the number of plant parts produced..and part is by abortion (death of old leaves, abscission of flowers and pods).
1991   A. D. Bell Plant Form (1993) ii. 244/2   Alternatively the loss of meristematic activity may be caused by the abortion of the apex.

1763—1991(Hide quotations)

 

Phrases

 
 

  abortion on demand   n. (the right to procure) abortion on request, irrespective of circumstances.

1964   Demography 1 122/1   After the decree of June 3, 1956, had established the principle of abortion on demand, the number of legal abortions increased rapidly.
1980   P. K. Dick in We can remember it for you Wholesale (1994) 491,   I also got some unsigned hate mail, some of it not from individuals but from organizations promoting abortion on demand.
2007   Belfast Tel. (Nexis) 27 July 18   Northern Ireland is changing, but it is still a conservative society and as the pro-life lobby argues, people are not yet ready for abortion on demand.

1964—2007(Hide quotations)

 

Compounds

 
 

  abortion pill   n. a pill containing an abortifacient substance; spec. a pill containing an anti-hormone such as mifepristone, used to induce abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

1858   N.Y. Herald 17 Mar. 1/5   Are you the proprietor of a pill called an abortion pill?
1906   Lancet 3 Feb. 338/2   A medical practitioner is..not an advertising quack, not a transatlantic adventurer, nor a monger of abortion pills.
1985   Times 31 Jan. 3/1   The controversial French abortion pill, Ru486, is likely to be tested on British women.
2005   Nation (N.Y.) 30 May 13/2   Hager..halt[ed] distribution and marketing of the abortion pill, RU-486.

1858—2005(Hide quotations)

 

  abortion storm   n. Veterinary Med. a spate of abortions in a herd or flock of domestic animals, typically as a result of an epidemic disease.

1916   Jrnl. Amer. Vet. Med. Assoc. 50 32   They came from a herd in which an abortion storm had raged.
1933   Cornell Veterinarian 23 279   During the spring of 1930 a heavy loss in the pig crop resulted from what might be called an abortion storm.
1955   Reprod. & Infertility 16/1   When maximum exposure to leptospiral infection and maximum incidence of advanced pregnancy exist concurrently in a herd, then a disastrous abortion ‘storm’ can occur.
1997   Farmers Guardian 19 Sept. 20/6   An abortion storm eight years ago, when 45 ewes lost their lambs, convinced..[him] of the need to vaccinate his flock..against enzootic and toxoplasma abortion and against clostridial diseases before going to the ram.

1916—1997(Hide quotations)