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What is an abortion?

An abortion is a way to end an unwanted pregnancy. More than one in four women in England and Wales will have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion is available in every part of the country and women from all communities, faith groups and ethnicities and of all ages can access abortion services.

Your rights

Doctors, nurses and other health workers have a duty NOT to give out information about you without your consent, whatever your age, except in exceptional circumstances.

You have the right to talk to a doctor or nurse in complete confidence about issues concerning your health and welfare. The only reason why a medical professional can share information you have given them with another professional is if sharing information is necessary in order to protect a child or adult from harm or abuse. Even in this situation you should be informed of who else needs to know and why.

Confidentiality for Under 16s

The same rules apply on confidentiality for under 16s. Unless disclosure is necessary to protect a young person or child from harm or abuse, any discussion with a medical professional should remain confidential.

Even if a doctor decides that a young person is not mature enough to make a decision about their treatment, the conversation should remain confidential.

If the doctor considers that young women does not have sufficent understanding to give her own consent, the doctor cannot perform the abortion on the young women unless they also gain consent from her parents or her guardian.

Abortion law and methods

It is legal to have an abortion if doctors agree that it would be better for your health and wellbeing to end the pregnancy than to continue it. Although abortion can be carried out until 24 weeks into pregnancy, 90% of all abortions take place in the first 12 weeks. The earlier in pregnancy the abortion takes place the safer it is for the woman. Early in pregnancy the woman may be given a choice of abortion method and is likely to have her abortion locally.

Manual Vacuum Aspiration (up to 9 weeks)

This is carried out under local anaesthetic using gentle suction as a “walk in, walk out” procedure. The procedure itself only takes a few minutes but your appointment lasts about 45 minutes, time to recover.

You can opt to have a contraceptive implant, IUD (copper coil) or IUS (Mirena coil) fitted at the same time as the procedure to prevent future unplanned pregnancies.

Early Medical Abortion (up to 9 weeks)

This procedure involves two visits and a follow up call by telephone after two weeks. At the first visit you will take a pill and go home afterwards. This pill will prevent the pregnancy from continuing. After 24 – 48 hours you will need to return to the hospital to take another tablet after which you can go home. Most women can expect to pass the pregnancy in the next 2 – 4 hours when the tablet will cause the womb to contract and make you expel the pregnancy. Similar level of pain and bleeding to a natural miscarriage or heavy period and it is recommended you take tablet painkillers. If you opt for this procedure you should be confident you will have somebody to offer support for you at home.

Surgical Termination (up to 14 weeks)

This is a straightforward procedure and is performed under full anaesthetic and takes about 10 minutes. While you are asleep the doctor will gently open the entrance to the womb (the cervix) and remove the pregnancy using a suction machine. You will need to be at the Hospital for up to 6 hours and must have someone to drive you home or go with you in a taxi and stay overnight with you. You will not be able to work or drive for the next 24 hours. You can also choose to have the contraceptive implant, IUD (copper coil) or IUS (Mirena coil) fitted at the same time whilst you are asleep.

If you are under the age of 18, you will need an adult (18 and over) to drop you at the clinic and also to collect you after the procedure.

Surgical Termination (up to 14 - 24 weeks)

This procedure is referred to as dilation and evacuation. This method is uses instruments and suction to remove the pregnancy whilst you are asleep. To enable this to happen you will need cervical preperation on the day of surgery, or the day before. You won't feel any pain during the procedure which usually last 10 - 20 minutes. You will need to stay in hospital for a few hours to be observed before being able to go home. 

If you are under the age of 18, you will need an adult (18 and over) to drop you at the clinic and also to collect you after the procedure.

For more information on all procedures, please visit 

Is it safe?

Abortion in the UK is safe. There are advantages and disadvantages to all the procedures, but these will be discussed with you during your initial consultation with the Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Will I be able to get pregnant again?

Most women are completely fertile within a few days of abortion, so you should start to use your chosen method of contraception as soon as the abortion has taken place. Many contraceptive methods are available at the Contraceptive and Sexual Health Service or as a young person the Brook Service.

How to make a decision about abortion?

It is important that you make the right decision so think about who you want to talk to and who can give you the information and support you need. There are several services that you can talk through you decisions with, such as your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse, Sexual Health & Contraceptive Service, Young People’s Service e.g. Brook or Share and the Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Some things to think about in making your choice…

Your life now. What is most important to you in your life at the moment? This might involve many things, such as family, friends, work and education.Your future. What are your hopes and aims for the future? You can think about all aspects of your life.

Whatever you decide it needs to be right for you.

Useful phone numbers and further information

- Royal Cornwall Hospital direct line (Truro/Penzance) 01872 252983

- Ramsey Healthcare (Bodmin) 0800 9170022

- The Sexual Health Hub, Genitourinary Medicine and Contraception Service 01872 255044

- Brook, sexual health service for young people 01209 710088

- Share Young Peoples Service Cornwall 0800 181033

- Education for Choice – supporting young peoples right to informed choice about abortion

- British Pregnancy Advisory Service 08457 304030

- Family Planning Association 0845 122 8690