What Is The Abortion Act Of 1967, How Many Clinics Are There In The Uk And How Late In Pregnancy Can You Get An Termination?


IT’S over half a century since the controversial Abortion Act came into force.

But what does the law say and at what stage in a pregnancy are you allowed to get a termination? We’ve got the lowdown…

Getty Images Abortions are currently permitted up to 24 weeks

What is the Abortion Act of 1967?

The Abortion Act of 1967 is an act of Parliament legalising abortions and allowing the NHS to offer them to patients.

It was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Liberal MP David Steel.

The bill was backed by the government and after a heated debate it was passed on October 27, 1967, and came into effect on April 27, 1968.

It permits an abortion if two doctors agree there is a medical need.

The law does not extend to Northern Ireland where abortion is still illegal.

It is also illegal in the Republic of Ireland, but a referendum is being held on whether or not to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment on May 25, 2018.

Alamy The Abortion Act of 1967 is an act of Parliament legalising abortions and allowing the NHS to offer them to patients

How late in pregnancy can you get an abortion?

The law in England, Wales and Scotland allows abortion up until 24 weeks gestation.

Two doctors must agree there is medical need, such as if continuing the pregnancy is a greater risk to the mother’s physical or mental health, or that of her other children, than having a termination.

Initially the law allowed terminations up to 28 weeks.

In 1990 the law was updated so that it was illegal to abort a foetus after 24 weeks except in certain circumstances – for instance if it is to save the mother’s life or there is evidence of extreme foetal abnormality.

In May 2008 there was a debate in parliament over whether the legal limit should be lowered to 22 or 20 weeks but the law remained unchanged.

The length of the pregnancy is calculated from the first day of the last period, but if the woman isn’t sure how long she’s been pregnant doctors may carry out an ultrasound.

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