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Abortion Act 17 October 1967, Amended 24 April 1990 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act




Up to 24 weeks

  • Social, socio-medical, social-economical grounds


No limit

  • Risk of serious handicap, risk of grave permanent injury to life of woman



  • Consent of two doctors required
  • Parents/guardians or social worker consent required for minors (under 16 or if in care) excluding exceptional circumstances when it is left to the doctor's clinical judgement



  • Free of charge (on NHS) in principle
  • Private or charitable clinics: 24% of women pay about £350-£450 (US$585-750)



  • The 1967 Act and current ambiguity surrounding guidance in this area means that clinicians opt in rather than out of abortion treatment and care
  • Choice of methods, and indeed access to abortion services is in some areas restricted by a lack of clinical staff willing to take part in the abortion process
  • A recent survey found that younger doctors working within Obstetrics and Gynaecology may declare conscientious objection to abortion which is not grounded in either religious or moral belief and may be more to do with a lack of training or commitment
  • There are particular variations between areas in the number of women who have their abortion under 10 weeks, and so are able to choose a medical or manual vacuum aspiration abortion. In 2001 this varied from 26% in one area to 79% in another area



This law does not apply to Northern Ireland, where the legislation is much more restrictive: under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, it is an offence unlawfully to procure a miscarriage, punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. However, on the basis of a 1930s court decision abortion is regarded as permissible in order to avoid serious harm to the mother's physical or mental health. About 76% of abortions in the UK are funded by the NHS [2001 figures]

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