Abortion Guide

An abortion is the ending of a pregnancy so that you do not have a child. Sometimes you might hear it being called a “termination of pregnancy” or just a “termination”.  Miscarriages, when the pregnancy terminates naturally, are often referred to as a “Spontaneous Abortion”. 

In many parts of the UK, abortions are available on the NHS and there is no charge. The abortion may be carried out at an NHS hospital or at a specialist abortion clinic. Your GP or local family planning service can refer you for a free NHS abortion. It is also possible to have an abortion carried out privatley, in which case you would pay for the abortion yourself. Complete the form on the right, if you would like an advisor to contact you about having your pregnancy terminated privately or on the NHS.

Everyone’s reasons for considering an abortion are different and it is important that you fully understand what it entails. Over 180,000 women have an abortion in the UK every year so it is a fairly common procedure.  Hence, abortion clinics are very experienced in the procedure and offer counselling and emotional support if required as it is quite normal to have mixed feelings about your pregnancy if you didn’t plan it. It is believed that one in three women will have had an abortion before they reach the age of 45, and so you are not alone.

Under the current abortion law you can have an abortion up to 24 weeks into your pregnancy but most abortions are carried out before 13 weeks.  The earlier in your pregnancy you are, the lower your costs are likely to be for privately funded abortions. If you are thinking about having an abortion, it is best to get help as soon as possible.

Legality of Abortions

It is legal to have an abortion in England, Wales and Scotland under the 1967 Abortion Act.  This act was brought in with the aim of cutting out the use of back street abortion clinics and making abortions legal, safe and accessible to women.

The Abortion Act 1967 states that to have an abortion two doctors must agree that:

  • You must not have reached 24 weeks of your pregnancy
  • If continuing your pregnancy may cause stress and upset your mental health, more so than if you were to end the pregnancy.  This part also includes any other children you may have.
  • If you would be risking your life if the pregnancy were to continue
  • There is a high risk that the baby would be handicapped seriously

In Northern Ireland, pregnant women cannot usually have an abortion within Ireland itself and have to travel to England, Wales or Scotland (this means that women from Northern Ireland cannot have an abortion on the NHS and have to pay at a private clinic). The only time that abortion is allowed in Northern Ireland is when there is a serious risk to the woman's mental or physical health and the risk is permanent or long term.

Abortion Help – NHS & Private Abortions in London & UK

The first place to go is to see your GP, a Brook Clinic or a Family Planning Clinic.  They can offer you advice and counselling to help you make up your mind what to do.  They can then arrange for you to go on a waiting list for an abortion which can take some weeks, but other times you can be attend almost immediately.  

Alternatively, if you wish a further degree of privacy and a quick appointment, you can go straight to a private abortion clinic where they will see you through the whole process at one centre and waiting times are minimal. 

There are different methods to carry out an abortion and it depends on how many weeks pregnant you are and if you would like to be awake during the procedure. Any medical conditions that you have may also impact your options. The types of abortions can be broken down into two types; surgical and medical abortions.

Medical Abortions:

Up to 9 Weeks of Pregnancy 

This is known as an Early Medical Abortion. If you are up to 9 weeks into the pregnancy you will be given medications which will cause a miscarriage and will feel like a heavy period. You will need to visit the clinic twice and there is no surgery or anaesthesia involved.

From 9-24 Weeks of Pregnancy:

An abortion at this stage involves taking medicines that will make your womb contract and push the pregnancy out. If you are 22 weeks pregnant then you will also need an injection into the womb. Again, there are two visits to the clinic and you may have to stay overnight.

Surgical Abortions:

Up to 15 weeks of Pregnancy: Vacuum Aspiration

This type of surgical abortion involves removing the pregnancy by gentle suction. You are only required to visit the clinic once and an overnight stay is not required. There is the option to have either a local or general anaesthetic which means that you can choose whether or not you wish to be awake during the procedure.

Between 15 - 24 weeks of pregnancy: Dilatation & Evacuation

This involves the pregnancy being removed using narrow forceps. A general anaesthetic is required, so you are asleep duting the procedure and you are usually required to stay overnight if you are over 20 weeks pregnant.


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