If you're pregnant and considering an abortion, find out who to talk to and where and when an abortion can take place.
If you're not sure whether you're pregnant, find out about doing a pregnancy test.
How do I get an abortion?
You need to be referred by a doctor to get an abortion on the NHS. There are usually three stages to the referral process.
First, visit a GP or contraception clinic. They can refer you to NHS abortion services and discuss your options with you. If you're under 25, you can also go to a young people's service such as Brook.
The next stage is an assessment appointment at the clinic or hospital where the abortion will be carried out. At this appointment, the doctor or nurse will explain the different types of abortion and will be able to talk things over with you if you wish.
Finally, you will be given another appointment at the hospital or clinic to have the abortion.
Alternatively, you can go directly to an independent abortion provider such as Marie Stopes UK, which can provide abortions on the NHS as well as private abortions that you pay for.
You can find your nearest contraceptive clinic or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic by using the sexual health service search. Or you can look in your local phone directory or on the FPA website. Young people can visit the Brook website to find their nearest Brook centre.
You can also pay for an abortion at a private clinic. The cost (around £400 or more) depends on how far along the pregnancy you are and the type of abortion you're having. You can contact a private clinic without seeing a GP, and you can find one through organisations such as:
- Marie Stopes UK
- local sexual health services
How late into the pregnancy can I have an abortion?
Abortion is legal in Great Britain at any time up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. The majority of abortions are carried out before 13 weeks, and most of the rest before 20 weeks.
There are some exceptions. If the mother's life is at risk, or if the child would be born with a severe physical or mental disability, an abortion may be carried out after 24 weeks.
What are my options?
It largely depends on how far into the pregnancy you are. A doctor can talk you through the different methods available. See abortion: how it is performed to find out about the different types of abortion and when they can be carried out.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has a leaflet called Abortion care (PDF, 217kb), which contains a useful timeline on page 4 showing the types of abortion that can be carried out at different stages of pregnancy.
How long will I have to wait?
Waiting times vary around the country, but, as a rule, you should not have to wait for more than two weeks from your initial appointment to having an abortion.
Can I be refused an abortion?
It's rare for anyone to be refused an abortion. A doctor may have moral objections to abortion, but if that's the case they should refer you to another doctor or nurse who can help. It can be difficult to get later abortions, so the earlier you seek help the better.
By law, two doctors have to agree that you can have an abortion. Usually this is the first doctor you see and a second doctor who will perform the abortion, or one who works at the contraceptive clinic or hospital.
Will it be confidential?
Yes, all information is kept confidential and nobody else will know about it, not even your partner or parents. You can also ask the hospital or clinic not to inform your GP.
If you are under 16, your doctor does not have to mention it to your parents. He or she will encourage you to involve your parents or another supportive adult, but you don't have to so long as the doctor believes that you're competent and can make the decision yourself.
Can I choose where to have an abortion?
Yes. You can ask to have the abortion somewhere other than your local clinic or hospital if you wish.
Can I get any counselling before or afterwards?
Most abortion services offer counselling if you feel you need help with any worries or feelings you're having. It's normal to experience a range of emotions after an abortion, such as relief, sadness, happiness or feelings of loss.
Each woman's response is unique. To find out what support is available in your area, ask your GP or a doctor or nurse at your contraception clinic.
Find counselling services near you.
Will having an abortion affect my chances of having a baby in the future?
If there were no problems with the abortion, such as infection, then it will not affect your changes of becoming pregnant in the future, although you may have a slightly higher risk of premature birth.
Article provided by NHS Choices