Abortion Law UK, The 1967

This Act applies in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland

Full wording of the 1967 Abortion Law Act

Abortion Law Act 1967 as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) 1990

A legally induced abortion must be:

* performed by a registered medical practitioner, performed, except in an emergency, in a National Health Service (NHS) hospital or in a place for the time being approved for the purpose of the act, and

* certified by two registered medical practitioners as justified under one or more of the following grounds:

  • A – the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;
  • B- the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
  • C -the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
  • D- the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing child (ren) of the family of the pregnant woman;
  • E- there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped; or in emergency, certified by the operating practitioner as immediately necessary:
  • F- to save the life of the pregnant woman; or
  • G- to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

The act provides that in relation to grounds C and D the certifying practitioner may take account of the pregnant woman’s actual or reasonably foreseeable environment. The changes made to the Abortion Law Act 1967 by section 37 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 came into effect on 1 April 1991 and included a time limit of 24 weeks for abortions under statutory grounds C and D. Statutory grounds A, B and E, F and G are without time limit.

The Abortion Act allows for medical staff to opt out of providing abortions if they have a moral objection to the procedure. ‘…no person shall be under any duty…to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection.’

Conscientious objection

Doctors’ views on abortion probably reflect the views of society more generally. Most doctors will refer women for abortion, but a minority feel that abortion is always wrong. A local audit of GPs in England concluded that at least one GP in 24% of practices will not refer a woman for abortion, on the grounds of ‘conscientious objection’.

Government guidance to doctors makes it clear that women should not be obstructed from seeing a doctor who will refer them for abortion in the event that their own doctor refuses.

‘(if GPs are not willing to refer women for abortion services) they must make that clear in practice information and make explicit alternative arrangements for their patients through other practices or community services.’

Click here to find list of Abortion Clinics in UK NHS & Private