woman thinking

Abortion, sometimes known as a termination is the medical process of ending a pregnancy when a person doesn’t want to have a baby, or when a medical condition means that continuing the pregnancy is dangerous.

Around 1 in 3 women in the UK have an abortion in their lifetime.

The pregnancy is ended by either taking medications or through having a surgical procedure.

In England, Scotland and Wales abortion is legal up to 24 weeks, the abortion must be carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic.

After 24 weeks an abortion can only be carried out if it meets one of the following criteria:

  • It is necessary to save the woman’s life
  • It will risk serious permanent mental or physical injury to the pregnant woman to continue 
  • There is a high risk that if the child were born it would suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities.

There are a number of reasons why a person choses to have an abortion, some of these are:

  • For the sake of the mother’s mental or physical health
  • Where pregnancy is a result of rape or incest
  • Where the child would have serious mental or physical handicaps
  • Social reasons such as poverty or the mother being unable to cope with another child

In the UK it is possible to get an abortion for free on the National Health Service (NHS). You should speak with your doctor or sexual health clinic and tell them you want to have an abortion - they will then refer you to a specialist service.

It is also possible to refer yourself directly to the hospital or clinic where the procedure would take place.

The next stage after this will involve having an assessment with a doctor or nurse who can answer any questions or concerns you might have. Waiting times from this initial appointment to having an abortion are usually less than 2 weeks.

If possible, the person having the abortion will be given the choice of how they would like the abortion to be carried out.

There are two methods of having an abortion:

  • Surgical abortion -  a surgical proceedure to remove the pregnancy
  • Medical abortion - a person takes 2 medications to induce a miscarriage, these are usually taken 1 to 2 days apart.

The sooner in pregnancy that an abortion is carried out the safer it is. Most women do not experience any problems, but there is a small risk of complications, these are:

  • Excessive bleeding - around 1 in every 1,000 abortions
  • Infection of the womb - around 1 in every 10 abortions
  • Damage to the entrance of the womb (cervix) around 1 in every 250 surgical abortions
  • Damage to the womb - around 1 in every 250-1000 in surgical abortions and less than 1 in 1,000 in medical abortions (carried out from 12 to 24 weeks)
  • Some of the pregnancy remaining in the womb - around 1 in every 20 abortions

Having an abortion does not affect your chances of getting pregnant in the future. 

You can get pregnant right after an abortion so you should arrange for suitable contraception to prevent this.

Myth: It’s ok to smoke the occasional cigarette when pregnant

Smoking cigarettes is very harmful for your baby, even if it is just the one.