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, which is where the pregnancy is lost or ends naturally. The loss starts without medical intervention, although medical or surgical treatment may be needed after a miscarriage has started to help empty the womb.
Why an abortion may be needed
There are many reasons why a woman might decide to have an abortion, including:
- Personal circumstances - including risk to the wellbeing of existing children
- A health risk to the mother
- A high chance the baby will have a serious abnormality - either genetic or physical
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 England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland and states:
- 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's 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 the child would be born with serious physical or mental disabilities
Generally, an abortion should be carried out as early in the pregnancy as possible, usually before 12 weeks and ideally before 9 weeks where possible.
British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)
If you know you are pregnant and feel sure that an abortion is the choice you want to make then you don’t have to visit our clinic first. You can self-refer by calling the BPAS team on 03457 30 40 30 directy.
This service is free but you must be a Wirral resident and registered with a Wirral GP, otherwise there may be fees.
For more information visit bpas.org.uk.
Our team provides help and support to any woman who finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy. We understand it can be a very worrying time and deciding to end a pregnancy can be a very difficult decision.
If you need further advice or are unsure of your next steps you can book a confidential telephone consultation to speak to one of our team who can signpost you to the appropriate service.
Follow the link to book an advice call or you telephone us on 0300 123 5474