The abortion law in the UK

If you are pregnant and cannot go through with it, you might be thinking of getting an abortion. Before going through the procedure, find out the ramifications of the abortion law in the UK because pregnancy termination is not sanctioned at any stage for legal and health reasons. We explain the abortion law so that you are aware what your options are when ending a pregnancy.

The fine print:

By definition, abortion is terminating a pregnancy so that a baby will not be carried to full term and born. There are many reasons why a woman might choose to end a pregnancy whether it’s a personal choice or for health reasons, that is, the life of the mother and baby is at risk.

  • Abortion law in the UK

The UK law states that a woman can resort to an abortion within the first 24 weeks of her pregnancy. It states further that abortion must be undertaken in hospitals or licensed clinics. There must be at least 2 doctors who agree that abortion will cause less physical and mental damage to the woman and as such, abortion is recommended. Ideally, the procedure should be carried during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Coverage

The Abortion Act 1967 is valid for the UK including England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is excluded.

  • Abortion costs

If you want to avail of NHS services for an abortion, you must talk to a healthcare professional first. You can also go to a family planning clinic. Note that the Abortion Act must be fulfilled, that is, two doctors must sign the certificate attesting to the viability of the procedure. NHS abortion services are covered from 60% to 90% depending on the circumstances.

  • Where to get an abortion

You can have an abortion at NHS approved hospitals and clinics. In addition, you can also have it performed at a private clinic without a referral although the agreement of two doctors must still be respected. Note that the NHS might not pay for this. The costs will vary depending on the stage of the pregnancy, method used and the organisation that carries out the procedure. It also depends whether an overnight stay is needed.


Although the abortion law in the UK clearly states that the pregnancy should be terminated within 24 weeks, there are special circumstances where it can be carried out beyond this period. These special situations include saving a woman’ life, preventing permanent physical and mental damage on the woman and reducing risks that the child will have grave physical and mental disabilities. In addition, bear in mind that like any other clinical procedure, abortion has also risks such as excessive bleeding, cervix and womb damage.

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