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187 (slang) is a common term used to reference murder because Section 187 of the California Penal Code clearly defines murder. 

The term is occasionally used to reference California Proposition 187 as well.  California Proposition 187 was passed by voters on November 8, 1994 in favor of a screening system for state citizenship and denied health care, public schooling, and more to illegal aliens in the state of California. 

187 (slang) most often refers to murder though.  The term is often pronounced “one eighty seven” and became popular among gang members during the early 1990s throughout California.  It’s arguable that the term became popular because the rappers, Dr. Dre and Snopp Dogg, used the slang word in Dr. Dre’s debut single called “Deep Cover.”

The album was released on April 9, 1992 and caused a great deal of controversy.  During the song, Snoop Dogg says “stay strapped cause [expletive] bust caps every day, yo the 1-8-7 don’t stop, on undercover cops.”  Four years later, Snopp Dogg was acquitted of a murder charge, and 187 (slang) has remained popular in certain circles. 

Etymologically, the 187 (slang) term was first used in California, but the word has spread to other parts of the United States even though penal codes in other states are assigned under different numbers.  Digital communication has helped to spread the slang word to other parts of the United States at a faster rate. 

California Penal Code Section 187

The subdivisions of section 187 are provided below by the Legislative Counsel for the State of California:

Subdivision (a) states: “Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.”

Subdivision (b) states: “This section shall not apply to any person who commits an act that results in the death of a fetus if any of the following apply:”

Subdivision (b1) states: “The act complied with the Therapeutic Abortion Act, Article 2 (commencing with Section 123400) of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of Division 106 of the Health and Safety Code.”

Subdivision (b2) states: “The act was committed by a holder of a physician’s and surgeon’s certificate, as defined in the Business and Professions Code, in a case where, to a medical certainty, the result of the childbirth would be death of the mother or the fetus or where her death from childbirth, although not medically certain, would be substantially certain or more likely than not.”

Subdivision (b3) states: “The act was solicited, aided, abetted, or consented to by the mother of the fetus.”

Subdivision (c) states: “Subdivision (b) shall not be construed to prohibit the prosecution of any person under any other provision of law.”

Basically, California Penal Code Section 187 defines the killing of another person with malicious intent as murder.  An abortion of a fetus does not classify as murder if the woman decides to use the services of a certified medical professional. 

Source: https://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=187-199