(Please scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to abortion providers and sources of support and information)
If you think you may be pregnant, it is important to find out as soon as possible. The earlier you know, the more options you have. Pregnancy tests are available from:
- family planning clinics
- your GP
- any other GP registering for family planning services only
- some Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics
- chemists - can do a test or sell a home pregnancy testing kit
- Brook Centres (for under 25s) - tests are free with immediate results
If your test is negative but you still don’t have your period a week later, you should take another test. Periods can be late for a range of other reasons including stress, change of diet, or other health conditions. You should seek medical advice if you are concerned.
Deciding what to do
A high proportion of all pregnancies are unplanned. It is common to feel stunned, scared, embarrassed or isolated when facing an unplanned pregnancy. Deciding whether or not to continue with the pregnancy can be very straightforward and obvious for many women; others can find it a difficult and complicated decision.
If you are struggling with the decision, confidential help, counselling and information about your options is available from health professionals including your GP, family planning clinics or Brook Centres for under 25 year olds. Only you can make the decision as to whether or not to continue with the pregnancy.
How can I get an abortion?
It is important, once you are confident of your decision, to act quickly.
If you are entitled to NHS care, your GP, family planning clinic or Brook Centre (for under 25s) can refer you for a free termination on the NHS.
A consultation and the procedure will be carried out in a hospital or abortion clinic.
You should ideally be offered a choice of different methods, depending on how long you have been pregnant.
It is usually easiest to get an NHS abortion before 12 weeks of pregnancy. The legal time limit for most abortions is 24 weeks.
If you are not entitled to NHS care, cannot tolerate the NHS waiting list or prefer to use private services, you can refer yourself to a private clinic. You will be charged from around £350. Please scroll down for service providers.
How long will I have to
Waiting times vary according to where you live, but once you have seen your doctor or practice nurse, you should not have to wait more than 3 weeks from your first referral to the time of your abortion, although NHS waiting times do vary across the country.
Ideally you should be able to have:
- an appointment for a first consultation within 5 days of being referred and never more than 2 weeks afterwards
- an abortion within 7 days of the decision to go ahead being agreed and never more than 2 weeks afterwards.
You should be seen as soon as possible if you need an abortion for urgent medical reasons.
Can my doctor refuse me an abortion?
A doctor or nurse has the right to refuse to take part in abortion on the grounds of conscience, but he or she should always refer you to another doctor or nurse who will help. The General Medical Council’s Duties of a Doctor says that doctors must make sure that their “personal beliefs do not prejudice patient care”. The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Code of Conduct provides similar guidance to nurses.
Whilst most GPs follow professional guidelines, some do unfairly obstruct women accessing an abortion. If you are not happy with the level of support from your GP you can attend your local family planning or sexual health clinic instead.
Please note, ‘LIFE’ and ‘Crisis’ centres are opposed to abortion, and so the information they offer may not be unbiased.
Abortion Rights can offer some confidential support for women trying to overcome unfair barriers to accessing services. In addition Abortion Rights is campaigning to improve the quality of care for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. If you have faced unfair barriers to services or have been given biased and directive information we would like to hear from you, anonymously if you prefer.
Will anyone else be told about my abortion?
The decision to have an abortion is a matter between you and your healthcare team. All information and treatment is confidential. This means that information about you cannot be shared with anyone else without your agreement.
The hospital or clinic where you have an abortion is not required to inform your GP, but many abortion services do this so that the GP can provide appropriate care afterwards. They should only do this with your consent. If you do not want your GP to know, you should tell the staff providing your abortion care.
You do not need your partner’s agreement, although many women want to discuss the pregnancy with their partner and come to a joint decision. Partners who have taken legal action to try to prevent an abortion have always been unsuccessful.
What if I am under 16?
Any young person, regardless of age, can give valid consent to medical treatment providing she is considered to be legally competent – that is, able to understand a health professional’s advice and the risks and benefits of what is being offered.
All very young women are encouraged to involve their parents or another supportive adult. If you choose not to do this, doctors can offer you an abortion if they are confident that you can give valid consent and that it is in your best interests.
You have a right to confidentiality like everyone else. However, if staff in NHS hospitals suspect you are at risk of sexual abuse or harm, they are obliged, with your knowledge, to involve social services.
Some of the guidance above is based on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidelines 2004. For further information about abortion procedures and what to expect before and after an abortion please visit the RCOG webpage About abortion care: what you need to know .
The organisations listed below can provide information and services to help you make your own decision or to access services.
fpa Telephone 0845 122 8690
fpa (formerly The Family Planning Association)provides advice on contraception and pregnancy and can tell you where you nearest family planning clinic is.
Brook Advisory Service Telephone 0800 0185 023 or ring their recorded information line on 020 7617 8000.
Brook centres provide free, confidential sex and relationships advice and contraception to young people up to the age of 25.
Marie Stopes International Telephone 0845 300 80 90
Marie Stopes International provides high quality abortion services. You can book your abortion or consultaion online.
British Pregnancy Advisory Service Telephone 08457 304030
BPAS provides high-quality, services to prevent or end unwanted pregnancy with contraception or by abortion.
British Association for Adoption & Fostering
The BAAF provides information and support for women who are pregnant and considering adoption.
National Childbirth Trust
The NCT supports people through pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.