This section contains information for students about abortion. Please see our new updated students' project pack on abortion
Below we list some key facts. The menu on the left links to pages containing more detailed information. There are also the pages about abortion in our ethical issues section.
What is abortion?
Abortion is the deliberate destruction of an unborn child, usually by extracting or expelling the embryo or fetus from the womb.
When is abortion performed?
In Britain most abortions are performed in the first third of pregnancy although it is legal up to birth on some grounds, including the risk of foetal disability. The law on abortion was passed in 1967 and amended in 1990.
The overwhelming majority of abortions are carried out under the pressure of social circumstances rather than for medical reasons.
How many registered abortions take place?
Between 1968 and 2003 nearly 6 million legal abortions were performed in Britain. There are about 200,000 abortions in Britain each year (187,000 in England and Wales and 12,000 in Scotland). That amounts to about 550 abortions every day.
What methods of abortion are used in Britain?
Some of the methods of abortion used in Britain include the RU486 chemical abortion pill, vacuum aspiration (suction abortion) and D&C and D&E abortions. Suction abortion is the commonest technique in England and Wales. The most commonly used in Scotland are the RU486 chemical abortion (49.8% of all procedures) and the suction abortion.
What is postabortion trauma (PAT)?
PAT is a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is the grief, guilt and anger associated with the loss of a child through the mother's abortion decision. Research indicates that at least 10% of women who have an abortion will suffer from PAT at some time in their lives.
Abortion: Ethical or not?
The introduction of legal abortion in Britain means that the right to life of the human embryo and foetus is denied.
Scientists agree that once the sperm has fertilised the egg, a new being with a fully human genetic make-up has been created. However, in abortion the humanity of the unborn child is either rejected or ignored.
Abortion for foetal disability does not prevent disability but instead prevents children with disabilities from being born.
When a pregnancy is unwanted, it often leads to abortion. Although everyone needs to be wanted - to be valued and esteemed by others - your right to life should not depend on whether someone else "wants" you, even your mother or father. Besides, an unwanted pregnancy, when not aborted, will nearly always result in a baby who is cherished and cared for.
The culture in our society of "a woman's right to choose" is used to justify abortion as a commonplace occurrence. Many women feel that they have no choice except abortion because society does not promote childbearing as a positive solution to a crisis pregnancy.
Women who have abortions are not given objective information about the humanity of the child in the womb, the possible physical and psychological complications of abortion and the reality of PAT. There is no legal requirement for abortion counsellors to tell the woman about her other options. Women who "choose" abortion are therefore not given the opportunity to make a truly informed choice based on a range of options.
Follow the links on the left-hand menu for more information.