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Pregnancy

Accessing Abortion Services

Find out about how to access abortion services in the UK.

Abortion is when someone sometimes chooses to end a pregnancy because they don’t want to have a baby. It is sometimes called ‘termination’. Find out more about abortion.

How to get an abortion

If you’re in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you are entitled to an abortion paid for by the NHS and there are a number of ways you can get one. UK citizens travelling from Northern Ireland to England for abortion can also have the procedure paid for by the NHS.

You can start with your GP if you are comfortable to do so (or another GP if you don’t want to see your normal doctor), a Brook service or another sexual health service, and telling them that you need an abortion.

These services will not perform the abortion themselves but can refer you to a specialist service that can. Brook can also help you by offering pregnancy tests, information about all your options, and counselling before or after an abortion.

Alternatively, in many parts of the country you can refer yourself straight into abortion services without going to see your GP. Visit either British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) or MSI Reproductive Choices UK for further details.

The next step after this will involve an assessment with a doctor or nurse. They can answer any questions or address any concerns you might have.

After this assessment they will make an appointment for you to return to have the abortion. This process, from start to finish, should not take longer than two weeks.

Find out more about the abortion process.

A few important points to remember are:

  • Whoever you go to see, they should not judge you or make you feel bad about your decision
  • If a doctor disagrees with abortion, then she or he does not have to be involved in referring you. However, they should make arrangements for you to see another doctor who will be happy to arrange the appointment
  • You do not have to have the consent of your partner although you may wish to discuss it with them
  • You have the right to delay or cancel or appointments if you wish. It’s always good to let the organisation know if you are going to cancel or delay your appointment so the time can be offered to someone else
  • You have the right to change your mind about having the abortion at any time during the process
  • You should be offered extra support, such as counselling if you want it, to help you make your choice

Read our page on making a decision about abortion.

What if I’m under 16?

If someone is under 16 but is considered able to consent to their own medical treatment, they can consent to an abortion without being forced to tell a parent or carer. However, a doctor will try to involve a parent or another adult to provide support.

Young people under 16 are also allowed to access contraception without having to get permission from a parent or carer, as long as the doctor thinks they can understand and consent to this.

Abortion law in the UK

It’s important to know that the law is different across the British Isles.

England, Wales or Scotland

Two doctors need to agree that continuing the pregnancy will cause you significant physical or mental distress. Once they have agreed, you have until 24 weeks into the pregnancy to have an abortion. It’s a good idea to go and see a doctor as soon as possible if you know you are pregnant and have made up your mind to have an abortion. Abortion is one of the safest medical operations there is, and complications are very rare. Earlier abortions are even safer than later ones, and can be done using a pill before nine weeks – see our section on different types of abortion.

Northern Ireland

Abortion is now legally available in Northern Ireland.  

If you or someone you know need an abortion in Northern Ireland Informing Choices NI and Alliance for Choice have up to date reliable information to help you. 

UK citizens travelling from Northern Ireland to England for abortion can have the procedure paid for by the NHS. Those in economic need can also apply to have their travel costs funded. BPAS provides information on funded abortion and travel costs for those travelling from Northern Ireland. The Abortion Support Network can help with travel costs and can find accommodation if you need to stay overnight.

Jersey

You can have an abortion up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy if two doctors agree it is causing you distress. Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks if the foetus has a severe incurable problem, or if your life is in danger. If your pregnancy has gone past 12 weeks but is under 24 weeks, you can travel to England to have an abortion, but you will have to pay for the operation. The Abortion Support Network can help.

Isle of Man

They passed a new law in 2018 decriminalising abortion and making it available at the request of the pregnant person up to 14 weeks, and later in limited circumstances.

Republic of Ireland

The law on abortion changed in 2018 and it is now possible to access abortion up to 12 weeks and later if there is a serious health risk or there is a fatal foetal abnormality. Because of the time limit people are still travelling from Ireland to England for abortions in a range of circumstances. The Abortion Support Network can help with the price of the abortion and can find accommodation if you need to stay overnight.

Visit our page on abortion and the law for detailed information about the law in each country.

Finding Support

Brook services do not perform abortions but we do provide emergency contraception, pregnancy tests and abortion referrals. This means that Brook can provide you with emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, and if you are pregnant and want to end the pregnancy – we can refer and support you into other services near you that provide abortions.

If you would like more help or advice about abortion you can:

If you need help quickly

If you need help quickly you can contact these organisations:

  • For medical advice contact NHS by dialling 111 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • For help if you’re under 18 contact Childline on 0800 1111
  • For urgent emotional support contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90
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