Introduction

Women who live in Northern Ireland

Abortion services in Wales are provided by the NHS Local Health boards.  Due to Welsh Government Legislation, women from Northern Ireland are able to travel to Wales to access abortion services, receiving the same treatment and care of those who are resident in Wales.

In Wales, clinics will offer a range methods, and services depending on the gestational period (how many weeks pregnant you are).  Each Health Board may differ in process so it is important to check with the clinic to find out what method is available, how to go about accessing the service and whether or not there are any exclusions.

The Law:

The law states that a doctor can refuse to certify a woman for an abortion if they have a moral objection to abortion. If this is the case, they must recommend another doctor who will be willing to help.

Before an abortion can proceed, two doctors must ensure that the requirements of the Abortion Act are fulfilled;

  • Abortions must be carried out in a hospital or specialised licenced clinic
  • Women who are normally resident in Wales and meet certain requirements may be offered the option of taking the second medication in an early medical abortion at home.
  • Two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a women’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy

Under UK law, an abortion can usually only be carried out during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, abortion can be carried out if;

  • It is necessary to the woman’s life
  • It is to prevent permanent injury, physically or mentally, to the woman
  • There is a substantial risk that the child would have serious medical/physical disabilities

Accessing abortion services:

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it is important that you discuss this with clinic staff in advance of any treatment.

Please contact the clinics below for information on abortion services in Wales, based on the Health Board area.  Sexual Health Clinics will be able to signpost you effectively to the most appropriate service.  There may be the need for patients to visit a Sexual Health Clinic initially to be referred into the abortion service.

Clinics

Health Board, contact information and clinic information

  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABM UHB). Abortion services Telephone line 01792 200303 (Monday to Thursday 8:00am to 3:00pm, Friday 8:00am to 12:00pm). Helpline 0300 555 0279. Up to 18 weeks gestation period – will refer onto appropriate service if over 18 weeks.
  • Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (AB UHB). BETH Clinic - Unplanned Pregnancy Service 01633 431743 (Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm). Up to 12 weeks gestation – will refer onto appropriate service if over 12 weeks
  • Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BC UHB). Sexual Health Helpline 01475 443301 or referral through Sexual Health Clinic. Up to 9 weeks gestation and only RU486 method
  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (C&V UHB). Referred into via Sexual Health Clinic. Up to 14 weeks gestation – will refer onto appropriate service
  • Cwm Taf University Health Board (CT UHB). Termination Services 01685 728721. Body Wise (need to be referred into via a Sexual Health Clinic)  Body Wise will signpost onto appropriate hospital depending on scans and surgical procedures. Up to 16 weeks gestation – will refer onto appropriate service. All Sexual Health Clinics will refer into abortion services. Please see local services
  • Hywel Dda University Health Board (HD UHB). Pond Street Sexual Health Clinic 01267 248674 (Monday to Friday 9.15am to 4.30pm) to be referred into termination service. Up to 12 weeks gestation, between 12 to 18 weeks please see ABM UHB
  • Powys Teaching Health Board (PTHB). Sexual Health Services are available through GP practices. You may need to register as a temporary patient to access Sexual Health Services in Powys

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I travel to Wales for an abortion?

Yes, women living in Northern Ireland are able to travel to Wales for an abortion (termination of pregnancy).

Will I need to pay for an abortion?

NHS abortions for women travelling to Wales from Northern Ireland will be free of charge.

Where in Wales can I access abortion services?

Any Health Board’s Sexual Health service in Wales can be contacted for referral to an abortion clinic.  There are abortion services in all 7 of the Health Boards in Wales, however, there may be different processes and referral criteria (e.g. gestation period).  This would need to be discussed with the clinic.

Do I need proof that I am a Northern Ireland resident?

NHS clinics in Wales provide free abortion care to women who live in Northern Ireland however, it is recommended that you bring proof of address (e.g. Passport) in case you are asked to provide evidence that you live in Northern Ireland.

Do I need someone to come with me?

You can bring someone with you to make you feel comfortable but this is your decision.  If you are under 16, it is advised that a parent or guardian accompanies you however, if the doctors believe it is in your best interest and you fully understand what is involved, you can attend alone if you wish to do so.

What kind of treatment is available?

Late abortion is not available in Wales (20 to 24 weeks), however the medical and surgical methods are available.  During your assessment a clinician will discuss the most appropriate method, and any alternative methods if applicable with you to help you decide the best option.

What is a medical abortion?

A medical abortion does not involve surgery or anaesthetic.  It is the process of taking medication to induce contractions and thins the lining of the uterus.  This process involves two doses of medication.  The first dose will block the hormone that allows pregnancy to continue, also thinning the lining of the uterus.  This medication is called Mifepristone and is taken orally.  The second dose is taken between 24 to 48 hours after the first dose and is called Misoprostol.  This will induce the contractions, and is taken either orally, allowed to dissolve under the tongue or in the cheek, or is put inside the vagina.  Within 4 to 6 hours, the lining of the womb breaks down causing bleeding, and the loss of the pregnancy.  You will have to stay at the clinic while this happens to determine whether it is best for you to go home.  The dosage depends on the duration of the pregnancy, and there may be a need for a small surgical procedure to be performed if the pregnancy does not pass.

This procedure differs depending on the length of pregnancy – it is important to discuss with the clinician the options and methods.

What is a surgical method?

This involves a procedure involving local anaesthetic (where the area is numbed), conscious sedation (you will be awake but relaxed), or general anaesthetic (where you will be asleep).  The surgical method can be performed by vacuum or suction aspiration or by dilation and evacuation.

The vacuum or suction aspiration method can be used up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.  This involves inserting a tube through the cervix into the womb.  The cervix will be gently widened first, and a tablet may be placed inside the vagina or taken orally a few hours before the surgery to make it easier to open.  This method usually involves local anaesthetic or common sedation so there is little pain.  This method usually takes between 5 to 10 minutes.

The dilation and evacuation method is usually used around 15 weeks of pregnancy and involves inserting forceps (a surgical instrument used to grasping) into the cervix and womb to remove the pregnancy.  The cervix is dilated several hours or up to a day before the procedure.  This is usually carried out with conscious sedation or general anaesthetic and normally takes between 10 to 20 minutes.

Do you offer 1 day abortion in Wales?

No, the surgical method will be scheduled after a referral from the Sexual Health Clinic, which may be a few days after the assessment.  The medical method involves taking oral medication on different days.

How do I make an appointment?

Most Health Boards will require you to be referred by a Sexual Health Clinic, you can search for these here.  Please see the table to understand the different processes for each Health Board.

What is the maximum gestation period (number of weeks pregnant) that I can be seen in Wales for an abortion?

In Wales, the longest gestation period that will be seen is up to 18 weeks.  Women who are over 18 weeks pregnant will be referred onto the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) for alternative services in England.  

What can I expect?

You will contact the appropriate service, depending on where you would like to be treated.  This will either be through an appointment telephone line, or through a sexual health clinic.  An initial assessment will be arranged for you to attend, during which   you will have the opportunity to ask the clinician any questions you may have.  The clinician will assess your need and situation to determine what they can do – this will include discussions around methods, procedures, and risks.  This is your opportunity to provide any information about existing medical conditions.

This is very important. Typically, the assessment appointment will include;

  • An ultrasound scan (abdominally or internally/vaginal) to check how many weeks you are pregnant
  • A blood test to check your blood group or for anaemia
  • An STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) test
  • A chance to discuss any concerns or questions – where information will be given to support you and forms of contraception discussions.

How long will I be in Wales?

This all depends on the type of procedure, the Health Board area, the time from the first appointment to the procedure, how long the treatment takes, and if there are any complications.  You may need to wait a few days before the procedure. This can be discussed with the clinics.

Is there any aftercare support?

The Sexual Health Clinics will have a helpline number for you to contact should you need to. The Family Planning Association (FPA) also provide support for women living in Northern Ireland.  Their helpline 0345 122 8687 is available Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm, and they will provide non-judgemental and non-directive counselling to support you following an abortion.

Is the service confidential?

The service is confidential and communication is not made with any person that you do not consent to being sent information or contacted.  This applies if you are under 16.  If you are under 16, understand the process, and doctors believe it is within your best interest, it is fully confidential.  Doctors will encourage under 16 year olds to involve a parent or guardian as they will provide a level of support for you.

If you need  more information:

If you need more information, you can contact us via our “Ask Us Your Health Question” online enquiry service.  This service is not suitable if you are feeling ill or have symptoms. If you (or the person you are asking about) are feeling ill please call your doctor (GP). 
  
We will reply within three working days (working days do not include Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays).

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS Choices.
Last Updated: 13/11/2018 13:53:08