An abortion involves the ending of a pregnancy through medical intervention

Girl in waiting room

What is abortion?

Sometimes an abortion is called ‘termination of pregnancy’. An abortion should ideally be carried out in the early stages of pregnancy before 12 weeks, as there are lower health risks. Under UK law an abortion can take place before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion facts

Under 16: Young people have the right to access confidential treatment, as long as the doctor is convinced that the young person is capable of understanding health advice and able to make a fully informed decision. Very young women are encouraged to have the support of their parents or another supportive adult. If a health professional suspects a young person is at risk of sexual abuse/harm, they have a duty to inform children’s services for extra support, and make the young person aware of this.

If you are thinking about having an abortion, try not to worry. You do not need to be alone when reaching the decision that feels right for you, whatever that decision may be. In the UK, 1 in 3 women will have had an abortion by the age of 45. As well as confidential treatment, abortion clinics offer pre and post-treatment counselling. Not all women who approach an abortion clinic to find out more know exactly what they want to do.

Reasons for deciding an abortion can be complicated and include:

  • A personal choice based on current circumstances: For instance, perhaps the pregnancy is unplanned; personal circumstances means it is not the right time; or it feels the right decision to ensure the well-being of all involved.
  • Health risks: For instance, if the pregnancy were to continue there might be serious risks to the safety of the mother and/or baby.
  • Development issues in the baby: For instance, there are significant genetic or physical problems with the development of the baby.

Abortion support

  • Ensure you receive impartial advice: Some organisations and individuals offering pregnancy testing and advice might have very strong views for or against abortion amongst their staff and in their information.
  • Practice self-care: Be kind to yourself. An abortion can feel like a difficult process. Confide in people who you can trust – who you know will not judge you for any decisions you make.
  • Talking therapy: If you or your partner are finding it difficult to cope, consider meeting with someone trained to help – this might include your GP, a specialist counsellor (see below) and/or having talking therapy.

Top clips and stories

For advice on where to get an abortion and teenage pregnancy