Abortion: Understanding the Procedure and Your Options


 Abortion: Understanding the Procedure and Your Options

Abortion is a medical procedure that is performed to end a pregnancy. It is also known as a termination of pregnancy. There are different methods of abortion, including taking medications or undergoing a surgical procedure. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different aspects of abortion, including how to access abortion services, when it can be carried out, making the decision, the procedure itself, and the potential risks involved. Whether you are seeking information about abortion rights, the abortion debate, or the current abortion laws, this article aims to provide you with a clear understanding of the topic.

Accessing Abortion Services

In the United Kingdom, abortions can be carried out under the care of an NHS hospital or a licensed clinic. These services are usually available free of charge on the NHS. There are several ways to access abortion services:

  1. Self-referral: You can contact an abortion provider directly, such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), MSI Reproductive Choices UK, the National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS), or your local NHS sexual health website. They can provide you with information about eligibility and services available in your area.

  2. Referral from a GP: You can speak to your GP and ask for a referral to an abortion service. If your GP has objections to abortion, they should refer you to another doctor who can provide the necessary support.

  3. Contacting a sexual health clinic: You can reach out to a sexual health clinic, also known as family planning or GUM clinics, and ask for a referral to an abortion service.

Waiting times for abortion services can vary, but you should not have to wait more than two weeks from the time you or a doctor first contacts an abortion provider. If you prefer, you also have the option to pay for a private abortion, which is not covered by the NHS. The cost of private abortions varies depending on the stage of pregnancy and the method used for the procedure.

When Can an Abortion Be Carried Out?

In England, Wales, and Scotland, most abortions are carried out before 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, there are very limited circumstances where abortions can be performed after 24 weeks. These circumstances include situations where the mother's life is at risk or if the child would be born with a severe disability.

Before undergoing an abortion, most abortion services will request an ultrasound scan to determine how many weeks pregnant you are. The length of pregnancy is calculated from the first day of your last period. It is important to note that abortions are safer when performed earlier in pregnancy. Seeking advice early on will provide you with more time to make a decision if you are unsure.

Making the Decision

The decision to have an abortion is a deeply personal one and ultimately rests with the individual. Some women may be certain about their choice, while others may find it more challenging to make a decision. It is important to know that all women requesting an abortion have the option to discuss their choices and receive support from a trained pregnancy counsellor if they wish.

Impartial information and support can be obtained from various sources, including your GP or another doctor at your GP practice, counselling services at the abortion clinic, and organizations like Brook (for individuals under 25), BPAS, MSI Reproductive Choices UK, and NUPAS. While it is natural to seek input from your partner, friends, or family, it is essential to remember that the final decision rests with you. You have the right to keep your decision confidential if you choose to do so.

The Abortion Procedure

Before the abortion procedure, you will have an appointment to discuss your decision and the next steps. Whenever possible, you should be given a choice regarding how you would like the abortion to be carried out. There are two primary options:

  1. Medical abortion ("abortion pill"): This method involves taking two medications, usually 24 to 48 hours apart, to induce an abortion. It is typically used for pregnancies up to 10 weeks.

  2. Surgical abortion: This procedure involves the removal of the pregnancy and is usually performed under local anaesthesia. After the procedure, you can normally go home soon afterwards.

Following an abortion, it is common to experience some discomfort and vaginal bleeding for up to two weeks. It is important to take things easy during this time and give yourself the necessary care and rest.

Risks and Complications

Abortion is considered a safe procedure, especially when performed early in pregnancy. However, like any medical procedure, there are potential risks and complications. These can include:

  • Infection of the womb (uterus)
  • Retained products of conception (some of the pregnancy remaining in the womb)
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Damage to the womb or cervix

If complications do occur, further treatment may be required, including surgery. It is important to note that having an abortion does not affect your chances of becoming pregnant in the future, and normal pregnancies can occur after the procedure. If you do not wish to become pregnant, it is recommended to use contraception.


Understanding abortion and the available options is crucial for individuals facing an unplanned pregnancy or considering terminating a pregnancy. Accessing abortion services through NHS hospitals or licensed clinics is possible, and there are different methods of abortion to choose from. Making the decision to have an abortion is deeply personal, and individuals have the right to discuss their options and receive support. The abortion procedure itself can be carried out through medical abortion or surgical abortion, with both methods having their own considerations. While abortion is generally safe, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks and complications. By providing accurate and comprehensive information, we aim to empower individuals to make informed choices about their reproductive health and well-being.

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