The practice of induced abortion—the deliberate termination of a pregnancy—has been known since ancient times. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, and other techniques. The term abortion, or more precisely spontaneous abortion, is sometimes used to refer to a naturally occurring condition that ends a pregnancy, that is, to what is popularly called a miscarriage. But in what follows the term abortion will always refer to an induced abortion.
Abortion laws and their enforcement have fluctuated through various eras. In much of the Western world during the 20th century, abortion-rights movements were successful in having abortion bans repealed. While abortion remains legal in most of the West, this legality is regularly challenged by anti-abortion groups. The Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin is recognized as the first modern country to legalize induced elective abortion care. In the twentieth century China used induced abortion as part of a "one-child policy" birth control campaign in an effort to slow population growth.