An abortion (or, termination) is the medical process of ending a pregnancy so it does not result in the birth of a baby. Depending on how many weeks you have been pregnant, the pregnancy is ended either by taking medication or by having a surgical procedure.
An abortion is not the same as a miscarriage, where the pregnancy ends without medical intervention (although medical treatment may be needed after a miscarriage).
If you have an unwanted pregnancy or pregnancy complications, it’s important to look at all your options. There are different types of abortion you can explore based on your stage of pregnancy, but it’s worthwhile talking to a reliable and unbiased source for more information.
There are many reasons why a woman might decide to have an abortion including:
- personal circumstances
- a health risk to the mother
- a high probability that the baby will have a medical condition.
Abortion law in Australia varies across state and territory jurisdictions. Some states and territories have reformed or decriminalised abortion, while others continue to restrict women’s access to abortion. For more information, this article details abortion law in each State and Territory.
The most common type of abortion is a surgical procedure called a 'suction curette'. This involves the removal of the lining and the contents of the uterus by applying gentle suction to the inside of the uterus with a small plastic tube. This is a safe, simple and low-risk procedure when done between 7 to 12 weeks of pregnancy. The procedure takes about 15 minutes, but you will need to be at the clinic or hospital for about 4 hours.
A low-risk alternative to surgery used for terminating pregnancies earlier than 9 weeks (depending on the clinic), is a medication called RU486 (mifepristone). It is sometimes called ‘the abortion pill’, and is the most widely known medication used for this procedure. It’s available in some clinics in Australia and is up to 98% effective when used in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy.
There are some safe and supportive abortion and family planning clinics which you can go to get reliable advice.
For reliable, unbiased information about abortion in your state or territory, you can contact:
- Family Planning Alliance Australia
- Marie Stopes Australia
- Australian Women’s Health Network
- Children by Choice
You can also discuss your options with your doctor or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak with a counsellor.
Last reviewed: November 2016