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Women have abortions for lots of different reasons. Sometimes there is a clear medical need to end the pregnancy, but in most cases the reasons are more complicated. However, this is a decision that women and their doctors take very seriously. Abortion is something that must be carefully considered and discussed with a doctor before you can make the right decision.
Abortion laws in the UK set out the reasons why an abortion can be performed. If you want to end a pregnancy then you will have to discuss your reasons with a doctor who will ensure that they meet the legal requirements. Although this might sound a bit scary, the initial consultation at an abortion clinic is just like any other medical appointment. The doctor just wants to be sure that you understand your choices and that you’re certain about your decision.
Although most terminations are performed before 13 weeks, they can be carried out up to 24 weeks if:
Only a small number of abortions are needed to protect the mother’s physical health or because of foetal abnormalities. In most cases, the reasons fall into one of the last two categories. The potential impact of pregnancy and parenthood on you and your family can be huge. The doctor will take into account how it could affect your emotional wellbeing and mental health. Your social and financial circumstances will also be taken into consideration. If you and your doctor believe that it is better to end the pregnancy after discussing all the options, then you will be able to have an abortion.
You will only be denied an abortion if your reasons for ending the pregnancy do not meet these criteria. For example, you would not be able to have an abortion just because you are unhappy about the baby’s gender. There are also time limits on abortion. Pregnancy terminations can only be performed after 24 weeks if they are needed to protect the life or health of the mother or if there is a severe foetal abnormality.
The Abortion Act gives you the right to have an abortion in order to protect yourself and your family, but how does it actually apply in real life? What are the reasons why women decide to have an abortion?
Some women decide to end their pregnancies for purely medical reasons. Your doctor might recommend having an abortion if you develop certain complications during pregnancy or if you have a medical condition that puts you at risk. For example, if you have such severe morning sickness that you are unable to eat or you have been diagnosed with cancer that requires chemotherapy, you might decide to have a termination.
In other cases, the medical issue might relate to the baby rather than affecting you directly. You might decide that it is better to end the pregnancy if the foetus has a severe abnormality that would limit their life or have a significant physical or mental impact. It can also be safer to end the pregnancy in a controlled way if there is a fatal foetal abnormality that would otherwise cause a miscarriage.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You might decide that abortion is the right choice if you are living with a mental health disorder or you’re worried that continuing with the pregnancy could trigger your symptoms. In some cases, it might not be possible to take your medication when you are pregnant.
You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health condition in order to need an abortion. You might be experiencing negative emotions due to the pregnancy, the circumstances around it or the way it could affect your life in the future. If you’re struggling to cope with anxiety about giving birth or you feel unable to continue with the pregnancy then you may decide that abortion is the best option for your mental health and wellbeing.
Your wellbeing could also be affected in other ways if you continued with the pregnancy and became a parent. Although some people dismiss these kinds of issues as selfish or “lifestyle” choices, they can be very serious. Raising a child is one of the toughest jobs in the world. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to do it right. You might consider an abortion if having a child now would damage your wellbeing or harm your family in any way. For example, if:
The reasons for having an abortion vary widely. Every person and every situation is different, so what is right for one woman isn’t always the best choice for another. If you are considering abortion then it is important to take your time and think carefully about all your options. Think about how each choice would affect you now and in the future.
How would an unexpected pregnancy change your life if you continued with it and had the baby? What if you gave the child up for adoption? How might you feel if you had an abortion instead?