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The facts about abortion

The facts about abortion

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An abortion is the process of ending a pregnancy, and is also known as a termination. It’s a sensitive subject, and one that many people don’t like to talk about. But abortion is a fact of life for some women and, leaving aside the often very divided opinions on the subject, it’s essential that the facts are available to those who need them.

Why an Abortion may be Required

Individual personal circumstances in pregnancy vary wildly, but when it comes down to it there are a few simple reasons why a pregnant woman may choose to have an abortion:

  • The pregnancy poses a significant health risk to the mother
  • There is a high probability that the baby would be born with a serious abnormality, whether that be genetic or physical
  • Personal circumstances – which covers any scenario you can imagine, and many you can’t

When can an Abortion take place?

The law governing abortions in England, Scotland and Wales is laid out in the 1967 Abortion Act. It states that an abortion can normally only be carried out within the first 24 weeks of a pregnancy. Certain other criteria must also be met. These are that:

  • An abortion must only be done in a hospital or licensed specialist clinic
  • Two independent doctors must be in agreement and certify that an abortion is the best option in respect of the woman’s physical or mental health, compared with allowing the pregnancy to progress

Beyond 24 weeks, the law provides for specific and exceptional circumstances where an abortion may be carried out. These are when:

  • It is considered a necessary action in order to save the woman’s life
  • A substantial risk has been identified that means the baby is highly likely to be born with serious mental or physical disabilities
  • The intention is to prevent grave and permanent injury to the pregnant woman, whether mental or physical

Medical practitioners generally agree that it is in the best interests of everyone for any abortion to be carried out as early as possible in the pregnancy, preferably before 12 weeks, and ideally before 9 weeks if at all possible.

NHS vs Private Abortions

For an NHS abortion, the woman will normally need to be referred to a dedicated abortion service via her GP, family planning clinic, or local Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) facility. A doctor who objects to abortion on moral grounds, is not obliged to assist a woman seeking an abortion, but must direct her to another doctor who is prepared to help. Two doctors must sign a certificate confirming that the requirements of the Abortion Act are met for an abortion to be legal.

For women who prefer not to discuss their abortion request with their GP or a local clinic, there is an option to self-refer for an abortion on the NHS. The following organisations can assist with this:

  • Marie Stopes International
  • British Pregnancy Advisory Service
  • The Pregnancy Advisory Service

NHS funding for abortions varies across the UK. In some areas, women may be referred to private clinics at the expense of the NHS, in others the procedure will be carried out in a public hospital.

For abortions in the Private Sector the laws remain the same – you still require two doctors to certify the procedure. However, Private clinics require no direct referral from a third party GP or clinic if you approach them directly and are paying the fees yourself.

Costs related to abortion in a Private clinic will vary depending on:

  • The method of abortion utilised
  • Whether you are required to remain at the clinic overnight
  • The stage your pregnancy is at – as a rule of thumb early abortions are less expensive
The facts about abortion

How an Abortion is Performed

A simple process is followed in most abortion cases:

  • You will have an opportunity to talk through your decision with a medical professional. You will be advised of the ways in which the abortion may be carried out, and any risks involved
  • Your medical history and a blood sample will be taken
  • You may be tested for STIs, and can be given antibiotics if it is believed necessary to prevent an infection developing after the abortion procedure
  • You may be required to have an ultrasound scan to determine the stage of your pregnancy with greater accuracy, an internal vaginal examination, and/or a cervical screening test
  • Advice may be offered on your contraception options following the abortion
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form for the abortion procedure

There are two primary abortion methods, and the one selected for you will depend on the specific stage of your pregnancy:

  • Medical – where the woman is given medicines to stimulate the natural termination of the pregnancy
  • Surgical – where physical intervention is required to remove the embryo and surrounding tissue. Medicines may also be used to prepare the woman’s body for these procedures, and a general anaesthetic is normally required

Risks Associated with Abortion

Although no medical intervention is totally risk free, abortion generally poses no threat to the physical health of woman, especially in the early weeks. Nor does it usually affect your chances of becoming pregnant again in the future.

In a few rare cases, generally those abortions carried out later into a pregnancy, there can be complications and these may include:

  • Excessive bleeding – affects around 1 in 1000 cases
  • Damage to the uterus – the risk is 4 in 1000 for surgical abortion, and 1 in 1000 for medical abortions occurring between 12 and 24 weeks
  • Cervical damage – occurs in 10 in 1000 abortions

Abortion is generally a safe procedure that offers women the option to end their pregnancy should they choose. Many women find that the subsequent emotional fallout from their decision catches them by surprise. Any woman who is struggling to come to terms with their decision to have an abortion should seek help, and not feel they must suffer in silence.




About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, whatsapp plus,travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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