What is the law on abortion?
Abortion is legal in the UK and has been since The Abortion Act in 1967. This Act allowed the legal use of an abortion in the UK so long as this procedure was done before a certain stage in the mother’s pregnancy.
At the time, the Act was hugely controversial and there where many protests, particularly from religious sects and right-wing politicians.
There are, of course, still ‘pro-life’ campaigners who protest against the use of abortions today; however, despite these groups, and debate over how late an abortion can take place during a pregnancy, the notion of abortions being legal is not challenged by the mainstream politicians or the public at large.
What does the law say?
As the law currently stands it is legal to have an abortion in the UK so long as the process is done within the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy and certain conditions are met. This 24-week period has been the subject of much debate and has been the result of a balance between several factors including the damage it will cause to the mother if done later than this, the development of the child and their right not to be denied life, and the mother becoming aware of the pregnancy.
What is the process?
In order to have an abortion, a pregnant woman will need to have a consultation with two doctors who must agree that she meets the requirements to have an abortion. This process will usually involve a discussion with a GP who then refers the patient to a clinic, and the doctor at the clinic confirms suitability for an abortion, before carrying out the operation.
So long as a woman meets the agreement of two doctors she can have an abortion even if she is under 16, although the doctors are likely to advise her to include her parents in the decision-making process. The actual abortion must be carried out in a hospital or specially licensed clinic in order for it to be deemed legal.
It is possible to have an abortion legally after the stipulated 24-week period but only if it is either necessary to save the mother’s life, to prevent long-lasting injury to the mother, both physically and mentally, or if there is a substantial risk that if the child is born it would be severely handicapped.
Most abortions take place well before the 24-week period and, indeed, the earlier the procedure is performed the safer the operation is likely to be. That said, having an abortion is a huge decision and should not be taken lightly or without consulting others.