Abortion became legal in the UK in 1967

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Abortion became legal in the UK in 1967

  • Abortions can be performed up to 24 weeks
  • Abortions after 24 weeks are only possible if the mother’s life is in danger or there’s a serious foetal abnormality
  • The law sets out specific grounds or reasons why abortions may be performed
  • 2 doctors must agree that the abortion meets these requirements
  • Northern Ireland has different abortion laws

Grounds for Abortion in the UK

British abortion law allows abortions to be performed for the following reasons:

A: if there is a risk to the woman’s life

B: if there is a risk of serious, permanent injury to the woman’s mental or physical health

C: if there is a risk of injury to the woman’s mental or physical health and she is less than 24 weeks pregnant

D: if there is a risk of injury to the mental or physical health of any existing children in the family, and the pregnancy is less than 24 weeks

E: if the foetus has a serious mental or physical abnormality

F: doctors can perform an emergency abortion to save the woman’s life G: doctors can perform an emergency abortion to prevent serious, permanent injury to the woman

G: doctors can perform an emergency abortion to prevent serious, permanent injury to the woman

Why Do Women Have Abortions?

  • 98% of abortions in the UK are carried out under ground C
  • Less than 2% of abortions are performed under ground E
  • Less than 1% of abortions are performed under ground D
  • Very small numbers of abortions are performed under the other grounds

Changes in UK Abortion Law

Abortion laws have changed a lot over time. One recent change relates to medical abortions:

  • It used to be illegal to have an abortion anywhere other than a clinic or hospital
  • Taking the second abortion pill at home is just as safe as taking it at a clinic
  • Scotland and Wales now allow women to take this pill in the comfort of their own homes
  • England is introducing legislation to allow women to do the same




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