Why an abortion may be necessary 

A woman may decide to have an abortion due to her personal circumstances. But there are also medical reasons why an abortion may be necessary.

The Abortion Act 1967 states that provided a pregnancy has not exceeded its 24th week, an abortion may be carried out if:

  • continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the woman's life than ending the pregnancy
  • continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk of injury to the woman's physical or mental health than ending the pregnancy
  • continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the physical or mental health of any of the woman's existing children
  • there is a significant risk that the baby would be born with a serious physical or mental disability – read more about termination for foetal abnormality

The Act also makes it clear that two registered medical practitioners must both agree about the above points. In practice, this gives doctors a great degree of flexibility in referring women for abortions and supporting their request to proceed.

Read more about the Abortion Act 1967.

Deciding to have an abortion

Deciding to have an abortion can be difficult and a number of factors – social, economic, emotional – may be involved. But there is a wide range of information and advice services available to help you make your decision.

Your GP is one of the best people you can ask for advice about having an abortion. As well as being able to give you information about the procedure itself, they will also be able to discuss all your available options. Any discussion you have with your GP will be completely confidential.

If you don't feel comfortable talking to your GP, you may prefer to contact an organisation such as:

  • Marie Stopes UK  one of the UK's leading providers in sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Call their 24-hour advice line 0345 300 8090 for any information you may need regarding your sexual health, pregnancy, contraception and abortion.
  • Brook a national voluntary organisation that provides free and confidential sexual health advice and services aimed specifically at people under 25 years of age. Brook currently provide a text and webchat service 9am-3pm Monday to Friday.
  • The Family Planning Association (FPA) a UK charity that provides sexual health information. You can contact the FPA's confidential helpline on 0845 122 8687 if you live in Northern Ireland.
  • The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) – a national charity that provides abortion advice. You can find information and advice on the BPAS website or you can call them on 03457 30 40 30 to make an appointment or enquiry.

Page last reviewed: 18/07/2014

Next review due: 18/07/2016