Abortion

How to get an abortion

An abortion is the medical process of ending a pregnancy. It’s also known as a termination.

The pregnancy ends either by:

  • taking medication
  • having a minor surgical procedure

An abortion is available for free through the HSE if you live in the Republic of Ireland.

If you live outside the Republic of Ireland, you can have an abortion in the Republic of Ireland. But you will have to pay for it.

When an abortion can be carried out

You can have an abortion if your pregnancy is no more than 12 weeks.

12 weeks of pregnancy means 84 days since the first day of your last period.

After 12 weeks, you can only have an abortion in certain circumstances.

The earlier an abortion is carried out, the simpler and safer it will be.

Getting support early on will also give you more time to make a decision if you’re unsure whether you want to have an abortion or not.

You can get free and confidential advice on all your options from My Options, a new HSE support service.

You can call My Options on freephone 1800 828 010 (from outside of Republic of Ireland call +353 1 687 7044)

3-day wait

You can have an abortion up to 12 weeks (84 days) of pregnancy. But you need to begin the process earlier than that.

This is so a GP or doctor can certify that you are no more than 12 weeks pregnant. There must be at least 3 days between being certified and having the abortion procedure. This is the law.

For example, if you are certified on a Monday, the earliest you can have an abortion is Thursday. Or if you are certified on a Wednesday, the earliest you can have an abortion is Saturday.

This delay of at least 3 days can give you time to decide for sure if you want to go ahead with the abortion.

Certification

You need to get ‘certification’ from a GP or doctor before you have an abortion. This is the law.

A GP or doctor needs to certify that you will be no more than 12 weeks pregnant at the time of the abortion. They will do this check during your pre-abortion consultation.

You should have this consultation to get certified as early as you can. This is because there may be a delay in certifying that you are no more than 12 weeks pregnant. This delay can happen if your GP or doctor needs to refer you for an ultrasound scan.

You should also keep in mind that there may be delays in getting an appointment with your GP or doctor. They may not be able to see you at short notice. This could delay an abortion.

Abortion after 12 weeks — exceptional circumstances

After 12 weeks, you can only have an abortion in exceptional circumstances.

These are when continuing the pregnancy:

  • puts your life at risk
  • risks serious harm to your health
  • is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before or within 28 days of birth because of a problem with its development

Working out how many weeks you are pregnant

The length of your pregnancy is the number of days since the first day of your last period.

9 weeks of pregnancy means 63 days since the first day of your last period.

12 weeks of pregnancy means 84 days since the first day of your last period.

If you’re not sure how long you’ve been pregnant, you may need an ultrasound scan to check. Your GP or doctor can refer you.

Ultrasound scan

Your doctor may refer you for an ultrasound scan if:

  • you do not know how many weeks pregnant you are
  • your cycle is irregular
  • your doctor is concerned about an ectopic pregnancy

This will help you and your doctor decide what abortion method is best for you.

Deciding to have an abortion

Some people may be certain they want to have an abortion. Others may find it more difficult to make a decision.

The decision to have an abortion is yours alone. But you should take the chance to discuss your options with a health professional.

Unbiased information and support is available from:

You may also want to speak to your partner, friends or family. But you don’t need to discuss it with anyone else and they don’t have a say in the final decision.

Under 18 years

If you are under 18 years old you are encouraged to involve your parents or another supportive adult.

If you are over 16 years old and you choose not to involve an adult, a doctor can still offer you an abortion.

But this is only if they are confident that you understand the information and you can give consent. This is so that they know that you can make your own decision.

If you are aged 15 or under – and you choose not to involve your parents or another supportive adult – a doctor can still offer you an abortion. But only if:

  • there are exceptional circumstances
  • you have had an assessment with a doctor

If you decide to have an abortion, you have the right for your information to remain confidential.

But your doctor must report to Tusla – The Child and Family Agency, if:

  • you are under 15 and have had sex
  • you are aged 15 or 16 and having sex with someone who is at least 2 years older than you
  • you are under 17 and the doctor believes you are at risk of sexual abuse or harm
  • you are under 17 and the doctor believes you have been sexually abused or harmed

Individual circumstances

We understand that people request abortions for many different reasons.

If something has happened or there is something that your GP or doctor should be aware of, please let them know. This could include if:

  • you have been a victim of rape
  • you are an asylum seeker
  • you are homeless

Your GP or doctor can provide you with the right kind of support and guidance that you need.

If you have been raped, the Rape Crisis Centre can provide you with free support and information. You can call them on freephone 1800 77 88 88.

Where to go for an abortion

Abortions can be carried out by a:

  • GP surgery that provides abortion services
  • family planning clinic that provides abortion services
  • women’s health clinic that provides abortion services
  • hospital that provides abortion services

You will have appointments on different days.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, you may not be able you to attend a doctor in person to access abortion services.

Your pre-abortion consultation will be over the phone or by video link. This is a temporary change.

The doctor will tell you if they need to see you in person. But it will depend on how many weeks you are pregnant and the type of abortion you are having.

Who to contact for an abortion

To have an abortion you can contact:

  • the My Options support service on freephone 1800 828 010
  • a GP surgery that provides abortion services
  • a family planning clinic that provides abortion services
  • a women’s health clinic that provides abortion services

You must have an abortion in a hospital if you:

  • are more than 9 weeks pregnant
  • have any medical conditions or health-related illness. For example, severe anaemia, pre-existing heart disease or severe cardiovascular disease
  • have become pregnant despite using an intrauterine device (IUD) — an IUD is a contraceptive device. It used to be called a coil or a loop

If you need to go to a hospital to have an abortion, your GP will refer you.

Cost of an abortion

An abortion is available free through the HSE if you live in the Republic of Ireland.

If you live outside the Republic of Ireland, you can have an abortion in the Republic of Ireland. But you will have to pay for it.

How long an abortion takes

The length of time for an abortion will be different. It depends on what type of abortion you have.

You should go to the doctor or GP as early as possible in your pregnancy. This is because you need to allow for the time it may take to get certified for an abortion and for the 3-day wait. This is the law.

It is important to remember that a doctor can only carry out an abortion if you are under 12 weeks pregnant, unless under certain circumstances.

Getting certified for an abortion and the 3-day wait

Not all doctors provide abortion services

Your GP or doctor might not provide abortion services.

They don’t have to provide an abortion service if they don’t want to.

This may be because they conscientiously object to abortion. Conscientious objection is when medical staff refuse to take part in a procedure if it goes against their religious or moral beliefs.

They may also have other reasons for not providing abortion services.

If your GP or doctor will not carry out an abortion, they should always refer you to someone who does provide the service.

If your doctor isn’t helpful, try to see another one.

Our unplanned pregnancy support service — My Options — provides free information on abortion services. Call My Options on freephone 1800 828 010.

Confidentiality

You have a right to confidentiality. All your details and treatment information will be kept confidential.

The decision you make about your abortion care will be between you and your doctor.

If you don’t want to tell anyone about your abortion, you don’t have to.

You might not want your GP to know that you had an abortion. If so, you can have it in a family planning clinic or a woman’s health clinic. Your GP won’t be told if you don’t want them to know.

Information about an abortion doesn’t go on your medical record.

Under 18 years old

If you’re aged 16 to 17, your parents don’t usually need to be told.

But your GP or doctor might have to report your details to Tusla – The Child and Family Agency if they believe there is a risk to your safety or welfare.

If you are under 16, you cannot get an abortion without a parent or guardian.

Hospitals providing abortion services

National Maternity Hospital – Holles Street
Dublin 2

Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital
Dublin 8

Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar
Co. Westmeath

Rotunda Hospital
Dublin 1

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda
Co. Louth

University Hospital Galway
Newcastle Road
Galway

Mayo University Hospital
Castlebar
Co. Mayo

University Maternity Hospital Limerick
Ennis Road
Limerick

Cork University Maternity Hospital
Wilton
Cork

University Hospital Waterford
Dunmore Road
Waterford

Page Last Reviewed: 31/12/2018
Next Review Due: 31/12/2021