Abortion: where to go

If you're pregnant and considering an abortion, find out who to talk to and where and when an abortion can take place.

If you're not sure whether you're pregnant, find out about doing a pregnancy test.

How do I get an abortion?

You need to be referred by a doctor to get an abortion on the NHS. There are usually three stages to the referral process.

First, visit a GP or community contraception clinic. They can refer you to NHS abortion services and discuss your options with you. If you're under 25, you can also go to a young people’s service such as Brook.

The next stage is an assessment appointment at the clinic or hospital where the abortion will be carried out. At this appointment, the doctor or nurse will explain the different types of abortion and will be able to talk things over with you if you wish. 

Finally, you will be given another appointment at the hospital or clinic to have the abortion. 

Alternatively, you can go directly to an independent abortion provider such as bpas (the British Pregnancy Advisory Service) or Marie Stopes, which can provide abortions on the NHS as well as private abortions that you pay for.  

You can find your nearest community contraceptive clinic or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic by using the sexual health service search. Or you can look in your local phone directory or on the FPA website. Young people can also visit the Brook website to find your nearest Brook centre.

You can also pay for an abortion at a private clinic. The cost (around £400 or more) depends on how far along the pregnancy you are and the type of abortion you’re having. You can contact a private clinic without seeing a GP, and you can find one through organisations such as:

How late into the pregnancy can I have an abortion?

Abortion is legal in Great Britain at any time up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Most abortions are carried out in the first 14 weeks, and are safer and easier the earlier they are carried out, so it's important to seek advice sooner rather than later.

There are some exceptions. If the mother's life is at risk, or if the child would be born with a severe physical or mental disability, an abortion may be carried out after 24 weeks. 

What are my options?

It largely depends on how far into the pregnancy you are. A doctor can talk you through the different methods available. See abortion: how it is performed to find out about the different types of abortion and when they can be carried out.

How long will I have to wait?

Waiting times vary around the country but, as a rule, you shouldn’t have to wait for more than three weeks from your initial appointment to having an abortion.

Can I be refused an abortion?

It's rare for anyone to be refused an abortion. A doctor may have moral objections to abortion, but if that’s the case they should refer you to another doctor who can help. It can be very difficult to get later abortions, so the earlier you seek help the better.

By law, two doctors have to agree that you can have an abortion. Usually this is the first doctor you see and a second doctor who will perform the abortion, or one who works at the community contraceptive clinic or hospital.

Will it be confidential?

Yes, all information is kept confidential and nobody else will know about it, not even your partner or parents. You can also ask the hospital or clinic not to inform your GP.

If you are under 16, your doctor does not have to mention it to your parents. He or she will encourage you to involve your parents or another supportive adult, but you don't have to so long as the doctor believes that you're competent and can make the decision yourself.

Can I choose where to have an abortion?

Yes. You can ask to have the abortion somewhere other than your local clinic or hospital if you wish.

Can I get any counselling before or afterwards?

Most abortion services offer counselling if you feel you need help with any worries or feelings you're having. It's normal to experience a range of emotions after an abortion, such as relief, sadness, happiness or feelings of loss. Each woman's response is unique. To find out what support is available in your area, ask your GP or a doctor or nurse at your community contraception clinic.

Find counselling services near you.

Page last reviewed: 20/11/2012

Next review due: 20/11/2014

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Comments

The 7 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

littlegreenlove said on 04 April 2013

I had an abortion at a marie stopes clinic in london last year. I didn't tell anyone other than my partner and I still felt like I had a full support network. My doctor was kind and understanding and the staff at Mary stopes were wonderful. It feels awkward answering some of the questions but its necessary to ask everyone the same just incase there is a case of lack of knowledge about safe sex and if it manages to help one young woman then I'll take the embarrassment!

I had the procedure under local anaesthetic at 8 weeks. The nurses were kind and kept me occupied throughout the procedure, I was explained everything that was going to happen and felt completely calm. I felt sad afterwards and maybe a little withdrawn for a day or two but not because of regret just because its overwhelming and your body knows something unnatural has happened.

I know that I made the right decision and I know that it will make me a better mother in the future when I'm old enough and wise enough to bring up a child in a proper environment.

Science and society are so advanced now and people shouldn't feel guilty about making such a decision. We are evolved enough to fully understand that our species is surviving in terms of numbers and what we need to nurture is our quality of existence and that starts from the right person having a baby at the right time for them.

I hope the women who have had bad experiences realise they did nothing wrong or harmful.

The only other thing I'll add is that I owe the staff at Mary stopes a huge thank you. I don't know how they do their job with such warm hearts and smiles but it made the world of difference for me

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rebeccaemme said on 12 March 2013

I'm 20 and just found out that I'm 18 weeks pregnant with my second baby, I don't know if itts too late tot have an abortion I do not want to go to the doctors because I know ill feel pressured into keeping it. My daugter is 9months and I am living with my parents who cannot find out, so appointments are hard to get to. I knoww I am not in any situation to keep this baby, I know I will not be able to cope physically and mentally. I hhave no onre to talk to about it and really need to know what I can do, in very little time

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Susie said on 20 November 2012

springtulip - in most areas in England you can go directly to bpas, you don't have to go to your GP first if you don't want to.

To find out whether this is the case in your area, you can call bpas on 08457 30 40 30.

Hope that helps.
Susie at NHS Choices

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springtulip said on 21 August 2012

Can I get an abortion on the NHS by phoning BPAS directly? Should I ever find myself in this situation, I don't want to waste time going to an appointment with my GP or the FPA to get a referral.

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AnonymousK said on 07 June 2011

I was faced with having to have an abortion at 18 years old, but didn't have a clue where to go. My doctor didn't want to know, so I had to register at a walk-in centre, who then referred me to a clinic for a consultation.

All the way through, the "professionals" made me feel like I was committing a crime! The woman at the consultation was rude, and would not let my partner come into the room with me. She spoke in a way that intimidated me, and kept saying things about "learning about contraception". After 20 minutes trying to talk me out of it, she then allowed my partner into the room, where we were told he would not be allowed to come to the clinic for the abortion with me. But when i got there on the day, every other girl/woman had somebody with them. I felt deeply saddened by this.

After my disastrous consultation, I was dreading the abortion, but found the staff at the clinic very comforting, aftercare was provided and plenty of information given about if i was to need counselling etc.

I feel there isn't enough awareness of abortions, and that they are frowned upon. It is a very hard time, we shouldn't be made to feel bad by those who are supposed to be there to help!!

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CeCe_19 said on 29 November 2010

I went to my GP to ask for an abortion. I felt humiliated and ashamed when they told me they could not refer me as it was against their beliefs. I was not strong enough at the time but just sit and listen. Eventually I made another appointment to see another GP who did deal with my health needs and made a referral. Unfortunately the delay reduced my abortion choices. I was 18. I was afraid and I felt let down. I have now changed my GP. If I had known my GP held these views, which are upheld by the medical profession and the NHS I would never have gone through this unpleasant experience. The clinic that dealt with me was fantastic. It was the right decision for me.

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We brave few, we band of brothers. said on 26 June 2009

Faced with the pregnancy of my girlfriend, i found this page extremely helpful to both me and her. An abortion is not something to decide on at the snap of your fingers. But if you feel that this would be the choice for your or your partner, then stand your ground and remain positive if ever you are doubted or looked down upon. Never give in to the demise of other peoples words.

If you are a teenager reading this, know that you are not alone out there.

I am 17.

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