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New abortion guidance to improve access to care

News 25 September 2019

Women should be given the choice of a medical or surgical abortion and be able to refer themselves to abortion care services directly, says new clinical guidance published jointly by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) today.

The new guidance will help to address significant barriers that women experience when attempting to access abortion care services by reducing waiting times and making it easier for them to access services, while also improving choice of procedure.

Reducing waiting times can also a lower the rate of complications, improve women’s experience, and lead to large cost savings for providers.

Around 200,000 abortions take place in England, Scotland and Wales every year. It is one of the most commonly performed procedures in women and girls of reproductive age.

Key recommendations from the guidance include:

  • All women should have a choice of a medical or surgical abortion.
  • Abortion care services need to be improved to make it easier for women to access them. This includes aiming to provide women with an initial appointment within one week of requesting one and undertaking the procedure within one week of the appointment.
  • All women should be able to refer themselves to an abortion care service directly. 
  • For specialities that include abortion care as part of the core curriculum, all trainees should undertake the training, unless they opt-out due to a conscientious objection.
  • A full range of contraceptive options must offered and made available to every woman requesting an abortion.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“Abortion care is an essential part of women’s health, yet a number of issues threaten the long term sustainability of services across the country. These include long delays, waiting times, stigma, a lack of trained staff, and limited choice of procedure. At the heart of this guidance is to address these issues and provide each and every woman with safe, high quality, timely and compassionate care.”


Notes to Editors

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)20 7045 6773 or email

The final guidance is available on the NICE website, as well as accompanying decision aids to support healthcare professionals and women make a decision about choice of procedure. 

The RCOG was the first Royal Medical College to call for decriminalisation of abortion in the UK, and has campaigned for abortion laws in the Republic of Ireland to be liberalised, and for women in England to be given the choice of taking misoprostol to be taken at home.

About the RCOG

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.

About NICE
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent body responsible for driving improvement and excellence in the health and social care system. We develop guidance, standards and information on high-quality health and social care. We also advise on ways to promote healthy living and prevent ill health.