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The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion (Evidence-based Clinical Guideline No. 7)

Published: 23/11/2011

This is the third edition of this guideline, which was previously published in 2000 and 2004 under the same title.

In addition to the full guideline (above), you can download a summary document (PDF, 2.35 mb)


Update, 23 July 2018

On 23 July the CMO wrote to doctors to clarify the time limit for abortions performed under Grounds C and D of the Abortion Act 1967. The Act sets out that abortion can be legally performed under these Grounds where “the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week”.

The Department of Health and Social Care, following legal advice, has confirmed that this means the time limit for abortion under these Grounds equates to a pregnancy not exceeding 23 weeks and 6 days. The taking of the second abortion drug or surgical evacuation forms part of the treatment for abortion and therefore all elements of treatment must be completed by 23 weeks and 6 days.

HSA4 forms and other relevant information will be amended in line with this clarification.

Read the full letter from the CMO.

Update, 24 February 2012

Please note that the CMO has issued a letter to all NHS Medical Directors and service providers on the termination of pregnancy under the Abortion Act.


The aim of this guideline is to ensure that all women considering induced abortion have access to a service of uniformly high quality. It is hoped that this guideline will be implemented across all relevant healthcare sectors and will promote a consistent standard regardless of the sectors in which an individual woman is managed.

The guideline does not cover prevention of unintended pregnancy other than to recommend robust arrangements for contraceptive provision after abortion. Counselling to assist individuals in making the decision to have an abortion, rather than to continue the pregnancy, is not discussed in detail. The starting point of this guideline is the point at which a woman presents to a health provider requesting induced abortion of an unintended/unwanted pregnancy.

The guideline has been developed under the auspices of the RCOG for its Fellows and Members practising in Great Britain. The guideline is also intended for other professional groups who share in caring for women considering abortion: primary care teams, sexual health services, gynaecology nurses, staff participating in non-NHS assessment centres and clinics and all those professionals providing abortion counselling. Those with responsibilities for planning and/or commissioning abortion services, for example directors of public health, local government, NHS trust managers and managers of primary care groups, may also find the guideline helpful.

In this guideline, the term ‘clinician’ is used to refer to all healthcare professionals who participate in direct clinical patient care. Thus, the term includes doctors, nurses and midwives.

The guideline has been developed taking into account abortion legislation and available resources in Great Britain. The guideline may be used for reference in other countries, but readers should bear in mind that legislation, resources and facilities will be different.

Information for women

Advice and information for women considering having an abortion

Women from Northern Ireland

Information for women travelling from Northern Ireland to access abortion care