If your partner is considering a termination, you are likely to be facing one of the most difficult choices of your life. Although your partner has the final say, you have every right to be a part of the decision-making process
Under UK law, it is legal to terminate a pregnancy during the first 24 weeks and nearly 200,000 terminations take place each year. Whereas a miscarriage ends the pregnancy spontaneously, without medical intervention, abortions are carried out through medical procedures.
Why might my partner consider a termination?
A woman may consider an abortion because:
- The baby has a serious medical condition.
- Her own health is at risk.
- She was raped.
- She does not feel mature enough.
- She does not feel her lifestyle is conducive to bringing up a baby.
- She does not have the financial resources.
- She can’t cope with another child.
What if I don’t agree?
You may oppose all abortions, or just this one. Alternatively, you may want a termination, but she doesn’t. You have a right to make your views known but not to prevent her going ahead – or to force her to have the baby.
What is the law?
The Abortion Act 1967 covers England, Scotland and Wales (not Northern Ireland). It requires terminations to be carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic within 24 weeks. The Act also permits a termination after 24 weeks if the mother’s life is at risk.
How is this applied?
- 90 per cent of terminations are carried out within 13 weeks, and two thirds within ten weeks.
- Some women go directly to a clinic. Most approach their GP, who refers them to the second doctor at the hospital or clinic.
- Two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to your partner’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy. Your partner has to sign her consent.
- Abortions are normally provided free of charge on the NHS. If your partner goes directly to a private clinic, she will cover all the costs.
How is it carried out?
Firstly, your partner will be checked over, given a blood test and tested for sexually transmitted diseases. An ultrasound scan, vaginal examination and cervical smear test are also sometimes performed.
- Up to nine weeks: your partner will be given two drugs, 48 hours apart. The effect is similar to an early miscarriage. She may need a painkiller, and it may prompt nausea and diarrhoea.
- Seven to 15 weeks: a small plastic suction tube, connected to a pump, is used to remove the foetus. It takes up to ten minutes and is carried out under local or general anaesthetic. Your partner may experience mild bleeding afterwards.
- After 15 weeks: – surgical dilation and evacuation (D&E): Cervix is opened under general anaesthetic and foetus is removed with forceps and suction tube. Takes up to 20 minutes.
- Late abortion (20 – 24 weeks) – takes place over two stages. Firstly, the foetus’ heart is stopped and the cervix softened. Alternatively, a drug may be injected into the womb, causing it to contract. The foetus and surrounding tissue is then removed the following day, using D&E.
What are the risks?
Risks are generally very low with early terminations, becoming higher later on in the pregnancy.
- Haemorrhaging – one in every 10,000 terminations.
- Damage to the cervix – one in 100.
- Damage to womb in 12-24 week terminations – less than one in 1000.
- Damage to womb during surgical termination – four in 1000.
After the procedure, the main risk is infection caused by failure to remove all of the foetus. This is treated by antibiotics.