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The expulsion of the foetus before the seventh mouth of utero-gestation, or before it is viable.
The causes of this accident are referable either to the mother, or to the foetus and its dependencies. The causes in the mother may be: extreme nervous susceptibility, great debility, plethora, faulty conformation, and the like; and it is frequently induced immediately by intense mental emotion. The causes seated in the foetus are its death, rupture of the membranes.
It most frequently occurs between the 8th and 12th weeks of gestation. When abortion is produced with a malicious design, it becomes a misdemeanor, at common law and the party causing it may be indicted and punished.
The criminal means resorted to for the purpose of destroying the foetus, may be divided into general and local. To the first belong venesection, emetics, cathartics diuretics, emmenagogues. The second embraces all kinds of violence directly applied.
When, in consequence of the means used to produce abortion, the death of the woman ensues, the crime is murder.
By statute a distinction is made between a woman quick with child, and one who, though pregnant, is not so. Physiologists, perhaps with reason, think that the child is a living being from the moment of conception.