Abortion 

Introduction 

There are many reasons why a woman might decide to have an abortion, including personal circumstances or a health risk to the mother or baby  

Post-abortion counselling

Women vary greatly in their emotional response to having an abortion. You may experience a number of different feelings and emotions.

If you need to discuss how you are feeling, you can contact a post-abortion counselling service. A good place to start would be the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy - their website for the public ('It's Good to Talk') offers advice and helps you Find a Therapist for pregnancy-related issues.

Abortion: your options

Practical advice if you're pregnant and considering having an abortion, with links to useful organisations

An abortion is the medical process of ending a pregnancy so it does not result in the birth of a baby.

It is also sometimes known as a 'termination' or a 'termination of pregnancy'.

Depending on how many weeks you have been pregnant, the pregnancy is ended either by taking medication or by having a surgical procedure.

Read more about how an abortion is performed.

An abortion is not the same as a miscarriage, where the pregnancy ends without medical intervention (although medical treatment may be needed after a miscarriage).

Why an abortion may be needed

There are many reasons why a woman might decide to have an abortion including:

  • personal circumstances
  • a health risk to the mother
  • a high probability that the baby will have a medical condition

Read more about why an abortion may be necessary.

When an abortion can be carried out

Under UK law, an abortion can usually only be carried out during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy as long as certain criteria are met (see below).

The Abortion Act 1967 covers the UK mainland (England, Scotland and Wales) but not Northern Ireland. The law states that:

  • abortions must be carried out in a hospital or a specialist licensed clinic
  • two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a woman's physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy

There are also a number of rarer situations when the law states an abortion may be carried out after 24 weeks. These include:

  • if it is necessary to save the woman's life
  • to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman
  • if there is substantial risk that if the child were born, s/he would have serious physical or mental disabilities

Generally, an abortion should be carried out as early in the pregnancy as possible, ideally before 12 weeks.

Read more about when an abortion is carried out.

NHS abortions

If you want to have an abortion through the NHS, you may find it beneficial to discuss your options with a healthcare professional. You will usually need to be referred to a specialist service that deals with abortion.

If you do not want to ask your GP to refer you for an abortion, you can go to your local family planning clinic or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic. Use the post code search facility to find your nearest sexual health clinic.

Some doctors at these clinics can refer women for an NHS abortion, but if they cannot, they must refer you to another doctor.

The law states that a doctor can decline to certify a woman for an abortion if they have a moral objection to abortion. If this is the case, they must recommend another doctor who is willing to help.

Before an abortion can proceed, two doctors must ensure that the requirements of the Abortion Act are fulfilled, and they must both sign the relevant certificate. Usually, one of the doctors will be your GP and the other doctor will work at the hospital or clinic where the abortion will take place. However, this is not always the case.

In some areas, you may also be able to refer yourself to your local Pregnancy Advisory Service, without first getting a referral from a local doctor. However, it does help to talk to other healthcare professionals, such as your GP or contraception clinic nurse, as well.

You can self-refer for an NHS-funded abortion by contacting:

Funding of NHS abortion services differs in various parts of the country. The level of NHS provision ranges from more than 90% of local demand to less than 60%.

In some areas, the NHS will pay for abortions at private clinics, but in other areas you may need to pay to have an abortion at a private clinic.

Private abortions

You can contact a private abortion clinic without being referred by a doctor. However, the NHS may not pay for this, and the agreement of two doctors is still required. The clinic will make the arrangements.

Costs for abortions in private clinics vary and will depend on:

  • the organisation or company that carries out the abortion
  • the stage of pregnancy (earlier abortions are usually less expensive)
  • whether an overnight stay is needed
  • the method of abortion used

If you are considering having an abortion, it is important to talk to somebody about it as soon as possible.

Risks

No clinical procedure is entirely risk free, but abortion poses few risks to a woman's physical health, particularly when carried out during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Having an abortion will not usually affect your chances of becoming pregnant and having normal pregnancies in future.

The risk of problems occurring during an abortion is low. However, there are more likely to be problems if an abortion is carried out later in a pregnancy.

The risks associated with abortions are:

  • haemorrhage (excessive bleeding)  occurs in about one in every 1,000 abortions
  • damage to the cervix (the entrance of the womb)  occurs in no more than 10 in every 1,000 abortions
  • damage to the womb  occurs in up to four in every 1,000 abortions during surgical abortion, and less than one in 1,000 medical abortions that are carried out at 12-24 weeks

Read more about the risks of abortion.




Page last reviewed: 12/06/2012

Next review due: 12/06/2014

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Comments

The 23 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

JNoshima said on 03 July 2014

To Simon Nicholls

"Thankfully nature ensures that as a pregnancy continues an incredibly strong bond develops between mother and child and therefore virtually every pregnancy taken to term results in a very loved and very wanted baby.....This is a fact.?"

I'm sure all the kids in the foster system who were abandoned by their parents will really love that parental bond that forms.

Also, as abortion was legal, and common, in Greece when the hippocratic oath was written, it's likely that Hippocrates had a clinical objection to pessary, rather than a moral one, as pessary can cause infections. Plus, the hippocratic oath only covers pessary, and offers no objection to other types of abortion. Also, when it comes to medicine, the hippocratic oath only covers people, not bundles of cells that aren't even a living organism yet.

Yes, there is still an element of choice if a person is afraid to tell their family. The fact is, they chose an abortion. They weren't forced into it. They weren't coerced. They may have made a choice as the result of their fears, but their fears were theirs alone and not forced onto them by someone else. Forcing someone to have or not have an abortion is wrong.

Also, if you're a guy, which I suspect you are, you have absolutely no right to talk about what a woman does with her own body. Not your genitals, not your choice.

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salma1022 said on 19 June 2014

I've had an abortion at 17. I was scared and was scared to tell my family. I was planning to run away, which is stupid now that i think of it, where will i have gone? But when you're young you make mistakes and it's part of life. Especially cause i didnt know anything about contraception, i never discussed it with my family or anyone because of religious reasons.

I then found myself pregnant and knew i couldnt support the baby, my family wouldnt support me, and the father was young like me. Although he tried to be there for me, I found that i wanted to be alone all the time greiving.

When i went for my abortion i felt like running out but then i knew i'll be too late if i change my mind again. The staff were reassuring me and were friendly, i was young and scared so they knew how i was feeling.

After it happened, i went home and was greiving even more, my parents couldnt understand why. But as time went by, couple of months later i was feeling myself again. I think it was the guilt of ending a life that had me so distraught.

I advice females, especially young females, to always get support from your family however angry you may think they are, having them there with you will make everything much easier for you to cope. Being alone, as much as it may seem it's all you want, will only make you more and more inconsolable and devastated. This could lead to serious health and mental issues.

Thank you

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Simon Nicholls said on 10 June 2014

A polite reminded to all NHS staff who engage in abortion and the NHS as a whole who subcontract, with taxpayers money, countless thousands of abortions out to the likes of Marie Stopes, Calthrope and the BPA.... The following is verbatim from the original Hippocratic Oath;

"I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.
I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion."

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N_B1993 said on 10 June 2014

Reading through some of these comments is confusing. I don't understand why people are posting negative things here to women who need help. It's also quite amusing that the people with the biggest moral objections are people who will never find themselves pregnant aka MEN.

'Amy' stated that she couldn't look after a baby as well as fear of her family's reaction. She also stated that people tried to talk her out of the procedure but she still feels she did what was best for her. Where is the objection to people talking her out of the termination?

Almost 4 years ago, I was in Amy's position. 17 years old, pregnant and about to have my whole life ruined. I chose abortion at 7 weeks gestation. I was given the abortion pill. I have many reasons for making that choice. The main one was that I valued a career over being a mother (a concept that some people find it had to grasp, FYI women aren't just good at getting pregnant). My experience was wonderful. The staff were lovely and supportive and offered me long-term contraception as soon as the procedure was over. They offered me lots of post-abortion counselling and asked me back to check my mental and physical health a month after the procedure.

To this day I still have no regrets. Because of my choice, I am now training to be an airline pilot. Something I would never have been able to do without having my abortion. I thank the NHS everyday for their wonderful support of women's reproductive choices and health.

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Simon Nicholls said on 01 May 2014

If you have an abortion because "I was just 17 and was terrified that my family was going to find out." then where is this element of "choice" that abortion supporters always talk about?
Such pressures are surely tantamount to coercion.

If the £millions of taxpayers money that the NHS spend every year on abortion was set aside to actually help vulnerable people who became pregnant then they would be genuinely caring and not, as is currently the case, merely providing for the extermination of "inconvenient" human beings.
P.S. Is there no room for criticism here? I note that my recent comment was hastily censored by it's complete removal. Not everybody is pro abortion.....sigh.

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Simon Nicholls said on 01 May 2014

Thankfully nature ensures that as a pregnancy continues an incredibly strong bond develops between mother and child and therefore virtually every pregnancy taken to term results in a very loved and very wanted baby.....This is a fact.?

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princessamyolivia said on 30 April 2014

I found out I was 2 month pregnant about 3 weeks ago and I had to have the vacuum abortion. I am only just 17 and was terrified that my family was going to find out. I had my abortion today and the nurses there at Birmingham central are lovely. Such kind people your ever met. You shouldn't be worried if you need help then you should always go to them or ring your nearest one. I got loads of people trying to say it was a bad idea to have an abortion but I new I couldn't give the child the best life at such a young age. The way they do it is very fast but is very painful I'm not going to say it not. But it was over and done with in a matter of minuets. I would deffo recommend that if you are going to have this type of abbortion I would be put to sleep for it as it can be distressing for people as they can here everything. I hope this helps the younger people and that the story's you here about them cutting you open and scrapping your insides out are so not true it's nothing like that before. Your not alone out there 1000s of people have it everyday dont. You shouldn't feel guilty at all even if people are sayen nasty things to you. Do what you thinks best and ignore the other people.

Amy x

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Screenname777 said on 19 November 2013

Just wanted to share my experience, to hopefully help anyone who’s here because they’re thinking about this. I was really scared and hearing others’ experienced did help. I know other people’s decision what to do might be really difficult, but if you do decide to have an abortion, or want to know what to expect before you decide, here’s what happened to me.

I called up NPAS, who were really lovely and willing to spend the time I needed to ask any questions. I got an appointment for the next day, which was funded by the NHS, although it was at a Marie Stopes centre. It was straightforward and I didn’t feel any different that day at all. Then the next day I went back, again, quite a simple appointment. I’d wound myself up and was feeling panicky at that time, but the nurse really made me feel better by saying it was just going to be like pad period pains. I went straight home. After a couple of hours it did start to become quite painful – really strong cramps. But I’d taken a lot of painkillers and the hot water bottle really helped. It wasn’t constant though and only last about 3 or 4 hours. Although they say you should have someone with you, I found I did just want to be on my own. The next day I wasn’t in any pain at all but was exhausted and slept all day. But the day after that I was fine and felt a huge relief having known I’d done the right thing. Just wanted to share the experience as I found it.

Sometimes things don’t go to plan. But it is up to you how you deal with it. Whatever you chose to do, be kind to yourself.

The only other thing I wanted to say was that I agree with other comments that I don’t feel this is the appropriate forum for discussing the morals or ethics of abortions. Whether you agree with it or not isn’t important. It is an option and people deserve to have the information they need to make the right decisions for themselves.

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wayupnorth said on 04 July 2013

Finding out I was pregnant was terrifying.I had just left my salaried job for a job in the family business and my partner and I had just acrimoniously separated so I was living back with my parents. Keeping my baby wasn't an option.My GP was really understanding and referred me for an abortion straight away, I had swabs taken and a scan which was horrific but necessary.I had my initial consultation and an appointment was arranged.I arrived for the appointment and was dismayed to find that it was cancelled.I had a meltdown, I don't feel like the hospital handled the situation very well as they didn't try to contact me prior to my appointment cancellation and the only available appointment would be 2 weeks later, but they wouldn't be able to guarantee that cancellation wouldn't happen again.I felt like they felt it was my fault I was in the situation that I was in and therefore I wasn't a priority.At this point, my mental health was really suffering,I felt extreme shame and guilt.I felt very maternal but knew it wasn't the right time, I was offered no support from the hospital for any of this.I couldn't face the idea of another 2 weeks of my situation and contacted BPAS, who were fantastic.They arranged a consultation for the following day and an appointment for the following week.It got me though the weekend, they were very warm and calming.I feel now that my local hospital wasted not only my time but their precious resources, I feel that they should have recommended BPAS right away as their resources are obviously very stretched to point where it affects patient care such as mine.I would advise anyone in my situation to contact them.

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John Allman said on 25 April 2013

We were discussing why it was that the peer-reviewed research suggests that an abortion is more risky to mental health than continuing an unwanted pregnancy on average, but yet over 90% of abortions were because of mental health problems the mothers had.

I suggested eugenics, but then a woman in the conversation admitted once pretending to have a mental health problem, because she didn't meet the criteria in the Abortion Act to have an abortion legally, but really wanted one badly, and didn't mind lying to get one.

Could she get into trouble with the police, if anybody told them what she had admitted? Could the doctors who signed to say that she needed an abortion, because of her pretend mental health problem, get into trouble, if they didn't bother to check her made-up story, especially if they stood to gain financially by going along with the pretence?

Is it a criminal offence to obtain or to provide an abortion by deception, for a patient, for a doctor who authorises the abortion, or for both?

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springtulip said on 17 October 2012

If I refer myself to my local BPAS clinic for an abortion by phoning the BPAS helpline, will it be NHS-funded? Will I be required to see my GP or anyone other than the doctors at BPAS? I don't want to waste time going to my GP or take up a GP appointment that could be used by someone else.

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Jennisimo said on 06 October 2012

I feel your comments are wholly unsuitable for a website that is designed provide information. There are other forums in which to express your personal views. I am concerned about those seeking information at a difficult time to be met with such comments.

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Jennisimo said on 06 October 2012

It is wholly inappropriate to use a website that is there to inform the public about abortion with your peronal values and beliefs. There are other forums that are more appropriate. The comments made are insensitive towards someone who may be seeking information during a difficult and sensitive time.

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lifegoeson said on 29 September 2012

Anon4338, i think you just book an appointment with any doctor, explain your situation and they will immediately transfer you to a doctor who can help you if they have any moral obligations.

Also, i struggle to see why some people are on this page if they oppose abortion. What these people dont understand is that they dont actually know anything about how anyone who has had an abortion feels.

Ive recently had an abortion, and to these people i say this- you think i dont feel awful about what happened, you dont think it was the hardest and most difficult decision of my life. you think i didnt think about every other possible alternative. It was honestly the most painful decision i have ever had to make, yet i know it was the right one. Im only 19 and it is absolutely unfair and irresponsible to bring a child into this world that you are not able to provide for, children deserve the best start in life. Although the memory of this situation will be with me forever, i know i did the right thing, but what makes it worse is people who know nothing about it commenting on it.

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norii said on 12 May 2012

Hi I had my Abortion just yesterday which was done by Surgical procedure as I was 13 weeks in, I got told that I would be bleeding between 4-6 days it has only been 24 hours and my bleeding has stopped, is that normal? Or do I have to be worried?

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ccw22 said on 15 April 2012

The NHS is there to provide good healthcare to everybody! But you want women who want to end a pregnancy to pay for it in instalments?! What about all the women who do pay tax, have they got to pay it off as well? And speaking as a woman, my biggest concern over getting pregnant is will I financially cope, or are my partner and I ready for the commitment, or do I want to end my career for the next 5 years? Not will I be able to afford an abortion!

Mistakes and accidents happen, its barbaric to punish a woman and consequentiality the child into living under the poverty line as is the case with a lot of young women. And surely doll money will cost the state more than an abortion?

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Jacob M said on 14 April 2012

Abortion is healthcare, as much as everything else. There are plenty of people who believe all healthcare is immoral. Their personal choices are absolutely theirs to own and to me are imperitive. What the NHS does in providing abortion and providing other healthcare is to provide those choices and provide them safely, and healthily by virtue of it being public.

Privatisation of abortion makes it profit driven, it means poorer women suffer or are unable to get decent treatment, it means less people know which providers they can trust,t makes people more vulnerable to abuse, it opens up individual providers up to the threat of anti-abortion attacks, it risks a depletion of services, and increase in late-term abortions, an increased possibility of abolition, back street abortions, and actually increased rates of unwanted pregnancy and in-fact very probably increased rates of abortion anyway.

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Spor Bishkek said on 07 April 2012

I had an abortion at 8 weeks.

It was really easy and the inconveneince of travelling to and from the clinc was more of an issue that the simple procedure.

I am so relieved it was so easy and completed so quickly.

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Simon Nicholls said on 25 March 2012

Why is it that any remotely anti abortion comments questioning NHS practice and procedure are removed? This is the UK!

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Simon Nicholls said on 25 March 2012

You say i the schpiel that; There are many reasons why you might decide to have an abortion – for example, because of your personal circumstancesThere are many reasons why you might decide to have an abortion – for example, because of your personal circumstances,.."

But then you say;

"two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a woman's physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy"

Can they both be true?


So anyhow in what circumstances would a tax payer funded abortion on demand up to 24 weeks ever be refused? We all know that abortionists cynically cling to the notion that continuing any pregnancy presents marginally more potential risks than aborting it...

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202 said on 02 December 2011

Most of the comments I found on the internet about abortions on the NHS seemed to say that it will take a long time to get treatment. However when I made the decision to have a termination it took 5 days in total from seeing the doctor, then him referring me to a family planning clinic to actually having the procedure done.

I live in the Birmingham area. I was 8 weeks into my pregnancy and I chose the Manual vacuum aspiration because I felt safer with the idea of being in the care of medical professionals. All the staff were very professional and supportive. It was a difficult decision for me but was made easier by how smoothly everything went.

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Kritgal said on 28 February 2011

This introduction page is poorly worded as it states in a sub heading that abortion is "a difficult decision". It does not need to be and some women know it is absolutely right for them and have no difficulty reacing this decision. The process could be made easier with reduced waiting times between each stage of the referral and consulation process.

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Anon4338 said on 28 November 2010

I need to see my GP for an abortion referral, How will I know if my GP has a moral objection to this? There is no reference on the practice leaflet as to whether my GP or other GPs in the surgery will make a referral. My family planning clinic is difficult to get to. I am anxious and do not want to seek health treatment and be told my GP will not treat me. I think any GP should treat any patient but this still does not happen for abortion services. Any advice?

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