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About abortion in Britain

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The Abortion Act 1967, which came into effect on 27 April 1968, permits termination of pregnancy by a registered practitioner subject to certain conditions. In its application to England and Wales, regulations made under the act (The Abortion Regulations 1968, statutory instrument 1968 no 390, as amended by 1969 no 636, 1976 no 15, 1980 no 1724, and 1991 no 499) require any such termination to be notified within seven days, in the form prescribed in schedule 2 of the principal regulation, to the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health or to the Chief Medical Officer of the Welsh Office according to where the termination takes place.

Section 37 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 made changes to the Abortion Act 1967. These changes came into effect on 1 April 1991 and the content of the notification of abortion form (form HSA4) was amended to reflect the changed law.

By arrangement, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) undertakes the statistical processing and analyses of the notifications.

Conditions of the act and statutory grounds

A legally induced abortion must be:

  1. performed by a registered medical practitioner,

  2. performed, except in an emergency, in a National Health Service (NHS) hospital or in a place for the time being approved for the purpose of the act, and

  3. certified by two registered medical practitioners as justified under one or more of the following grounds:

  4. the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;

  5. the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;

  6. the …

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