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Abortion

What is abortion?
An abortion is when the pregnancy is ended so that it does not result in the birth of a child. Sometimes this is called ‘termination of pregnancy’. If you’re pregnant and considering abortion its important to know that you’re not alone. 1 in 3 women in the UK will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. bpas has been providing care for over 40 years to women who are faced with either an unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy they choose not to continue with. We provide counselling for unplanned pregnancy and abortion treatment for women who decide this option is right for them.

There are two main methods of abortion:

1. Medical abortion: The abortion pill

  • The abortion pill involves taking medicines to end the pregnancy.
  • At least two separate visits to the clinic are required.
  • Involves taking medicines to cause an early miscarriage (It can feel like having a heavy and more painful period)
  • At the first appointment the abortion pill (mifepristone) is swallowed.
  • Mifepristone works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone the lining of the uterus (womb) breaks down and the pregnancy can’t continue.
  • At the second appointment misoprostol tablets are inserted into the vagina either by the woman herself or by the healthcare professional. Misoprostol makes the womb contract, causing cramping and bleeding similar to a miscarriage.
  • More information on the abortion pill.

2. Surgical abortion

Surgical abortion involves a minor operation. There are two types of surgical abortion:

Vacuum aspiration

  • Up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Vacuum aspiration uses gentle suction to remove the pregnancy and takes about 5-10 minutes from start to finish.
  • Can be done awake (under local anaesthetic) or asleep (under general anaesthetic).
  • It requires one visit to the clinic and you are able to go home the same day.
  • More information about vacuum aspiration abortion.

Dilatation and Evacuation

  • Usually performed between 15- 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Dilatation and Evacuation is carried out under general anaesthetic (asleep).
  • A doctor will remove the pregnancy using narrow forceps passed through the neck of the womb and gentle suction.
  • It requires one visit to the clinic, usually returning home the same day for abortions up to 20 weeks.
  • If the pregnancy is over 20 weeks more than one visit may be required or an overnight stay.
  • More information about dilatation and evacuation abortion.

Which abortion treatment?
At bpas consultation is the first stage of the process. It’s when you will have all the time you need to discuss your options. If you then decided to have an abortion you will talk to a bpas healthcare professional about the different abortion methods available to you. They will answer all your questions and help you to choose the best type of treatment for you.

The type of abortion procedure you may have depends on how many weeks pregnant you are, whether you would like to be awake or asleep and your personal choice. If you have any medical conditions they may affect which treatment types we can offer you.

Click here to use the bpas pregnancy calculator. The pregnancy calculator will help you to find out how many weeks pregnant you are and guide you through the different types of treatment you could expect to receive if you decide to have an abortion.

Is abortion legal?
Abortion is legal in England, Scotland and Wales if you are less than 24 weeks pregnant and as long as two doctors agree under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act. The law allows doctors to end unwanted pregnancies when they believe that continuing with the pregnancy would be harmful to the physical or mental health of the woman or her existing children, or when they believe that the abortion would be less risky than continuing the pregnancy. Two doctors must certify that the legal grounds are met, although they do not necessarily have to see the woman personally. Gaining the signatures of two doctors to an abortion is part of the consultation process at bpas.

In cases where there is a substantial risk to the woman’s life, or in cases of foetal abnormality, there is no legal time limit for abortion. Abortions after 24 weeks take place at NHS hospitals. The charity Antenatal Results and Choices provides information and support about fetal abnormality.

Abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply. If you are living in Ireland and would like more information please visit the bpas Ireland website.

Are abortions free?
In many areas abortions are available for free on the NHS and carried out at an NHS hospital or bpas treatment centre. Your GP or local family planning service will be able to find out if funding is available for you. Or you can ring bpas on 08457 30 40 30 and we can tell you if funding is available. Over 93% of the women we see don’t have to pay for their treatment as it’s funded by the NHS.

What do I do now?

What Happens on the Day?
Many women can be anxious about visiting bpas. Find out more about what will happen at your consultation and what each different treatment involves.

Frequently Asked Questions
Click here to read the answers to frequently asked questions concerning abortion.