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Legal matters

Young woman thinking

There are varying abortion laws across the UK, so it is important to find out what the laws are where you live so you can get the best treatment available to you.

England, Wales and Scotland

It is legal to have an abortion in England, Wales and Scotland up until 24 weeks of pregnancy, provided that the woman has the agreement of two doctors that:

  • it would be harmful to her physical or mental health to continue with the pregnancy, or
  • it would be harmful to the physical and mental health of any children she already has if she continues with her pregnancy.

What this usually means is that if a woman wants an abortion, she needs to explain to a doctor why she does not feel she can continue with the pregnancy. The doctor’s decision to support the woman with her request for an abortion then needs to be approved by a second doctor.

It is also possible for a woman to have an abortion after 24 weeks if:

  • the foetus has severe abnormalities, or
  • continuing the pregnancy would endanger her life or cause serious physical and mental harm.

Northern Ireland

Abortion in Northern Ireland is severely restricted, which means women often travel to the England for services.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is only allowed under special circumstances, such as:

  • If the pregnant woman has a serious medical or psychological condition that would jeopardise her life if the pregnancy continues, or
  • if a foetal abnormality is detected that threatens the life of the mother and would have a serious effect on her physical or mental health, including the risk of suicide.

Jersey

In Jersey it is legal for a woman to have an abortion up until 12 weeks under normal conditions.

However, there is a one week ‘cooling-off period’ where the woman must wait before having the procedure so they can think the decision through fully.

The rules are much more stringent after 12 weeks. Between 13 and 24 weeks a woman can have an abortion if:

  • her life is in danger, or
  • if there is a foetal abnormality.

If you're under 16

Once a person is 16 they are able to make decisions about and consent to medical procedures, including abortion, without the consent of a parent or guardian.

However, it is possible to have an abortion without parental consent when you are under 16 if the doctor feels that:

  • you are mature enough to understand what you are agreeing to, and
  • it is within your best interests that your parents don't know.

Read about the different methods of performing an abortion ››

 

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 18/8/2015 by T. Kelaart

Date due for the next review: 17/8/2018

Content Author: M. Tyson

Current Owner: Clinical services

More information:

NHS Choices, When An Abortion Should Be Carried Out, (18/7/14) 

NHS Choices Abortion Introduction (18/7/14)

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Extending the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland 

BBC, Abortion Law in Jersey, (2012)

Family Planning Association - Abortion - your questions answered

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