An action that fails or ends abruptly or causes something else to fail or end abruptly. The measure to increase pay for senators that was included in the tax reform bill was an abortive action, causing the entire bill to die on the senate floor. The general's effort to mount a counteroffensive proved an abortive action, leaving half of his troops decimated in the wake of battle.
See also: action
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.