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When you can have 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.

Page last reviewed: 18/12/2018
Next review due: 18/12/2021

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