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Reasons to Terminate a Pregnancy

Women have lots of different reasons for considering abortion, from serious medical symptoms to the emotional impact of the pregnancy. Everyone’s reasons for choosing to end their pregnancy are very personal, but they must all meet the requirements set out by the UK’s laws on abortion.

Grounds to Terminate a Pregnancy in the UK

The UK’s abortion law lists the circumstances in which a termination can be performed. In order to have an abortion in the UK, you will need to meet one of these conditions.

Ground A: continuing the pregnancy would pose a greater risk to the woman’s life than having an abortion.

Ground B: the abortion will prevent serious permanent injury to the woman’s mental or physical health.

Ground C: continuing the pregnancy would pose a greater risk of injury to the woman’s mental or physical health than having a termination. This ground for abortion can only be used before 24 weeks.

Ground D: continuing the pregnancy would pose a risk of injury to the mental or physical health of any existing children in the family. This reason for having an abortion can only be accepted before 24 weeks.

Ground E: the unborn child would have serious mental or physical abnormalities if it was born.

Abortions can also be carried out in emergencies in order to save the life of the woman (this is known as Ground F) or to prevent permanent, serious injuries to her mental or physical health (ground G).

Why Do Women Have Abortions?

The law sets out specific conditions under which abortions can be performed in the UK, but how do these relate to the reasons why women have terminations? The reality is very personal and complex. Most women have more than one reason for having an abortion and these may fit into different categories.

  • 98% of abortions in the UK are performed under ground C
  • Less than 2% are performed under ground E
  • Less than 1% are due to ground D
  • A small number of abortions are performed under grounds A and B
  • Very few emergency abortions are performed through grounds F and G

The most common reasons for having an abortion are classified as ground C, to prevent injuries to the mental or physical health of the woman. Ground C does not include the risk of life-threatening or severe and permanent injuries. So, what does it include?

A small number of the women who have an abortion under ground C are doing so because of physical pregnancy complications. However, most women are having an abortion to prevent harm to their mental health. Some of the reasons for having an abortion include:

  • Anxiety about childbirth
  • Antenatal depression
  • Emotional impact if the pregnancy occurred due to rape
  • Feeling unready or unable to care for a child
  • Financial issues that would cause mental harm if they had a child
  • Social impact of having or raising a child would be harmful

Ground C is a very broad category that covers all kinds of mental and physical effects of pregnancy and parenthood. Women can choose to have an abortion under this ground for a wide range of different reasons.

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