An abortion is a way to end an unwanted pregnancy. More than one in four women in England and Wales will have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion is available in every part of the country and women from all communities, faith groups and ethnicities and of all ages access abortion services.
Abortion law and methods
It is legal to have an abortion if doctors agree that it would be better for your health and wellbeing to end the pregnancy than to continue it.
Although abortion can be carried out until 24 weeks into pregnancy, 90% of all abortions take place in the first 12 weeks.
The earlier in pregnancy the abortion takes place the safer it is for the woman. Early in pregnancy, the woman may be given a choice of abortion method and is likely to have her abortion locally.
Medical abortion: at home up to 9 weeks and 6 days or in hospital up to 18 weeks and 0 days – Tablets you take via your mouth and vagina cause you to bleed and expel the pregnancy (similar to a miscarriage). No anaesthetic is used, but pain relief is given.
Surgical abortion: under a local anaesthetic up to 12 weeks and 0 days or under a general anaesthetic up to 23 weeks and 6 days – performed by inserting a small plastic tube into the womb and removing the contents using suction.
All people having an abortion will likely need to have one, or more, face to face appointments. Medical and surgical options are subject to medical suitability and assessment.
Doctors, nurses and other health workers have a duty NOT to give out information about you without your consent, whatever your age, except in exceptional circumstances.
You have the right to talk to a doctor or nurse in complete confidence about issues concerning your health and welfare. The only reason why a medical professional can share information you have given them with another professional is if sharing information is necessary in order to protect a child from harm or abuse. Even in this situation you should be informed of who else needs to know and why.
Confidentiality for under 16s
The same rules apply on confidentiality for under 16s. Unless disclosure is necessary to protect a young person or child from harm or abuse, any discussion with a medical professional should remain confidential.
Even if a doctor decides that a young person is not mature enough to make a decision about their treatment, the conversation should remain confidential.
Is it safe?
Abortion in the UK is safe. Your doctor will discuss any risks with you and will ensure that you take antibiotics if necessary to prevent any existing infection like Chlamydia from doing any long term harm.
Will I be able to get pregnant again?
Most women are completely fertile within a few days of abortion, so you should start to use your chosen method of contraception as soon as the abortion has taken place. Many contraceptive methods are available at the abortion clinic or you can access free contraception at many Unity services or your GP.
How to make a decision about abortion
It is important that you make the right decision so think about who you want to talk to and who can give you the information and support you need. You may want to think about:
How you feel about the pregnancy
What your current circumstances are and what support you would have if you were to continue the pregnancy