Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Q&A: What do the guidelines say?

WHEN IS IT LEGAL?

Abortion is only allowed in Northern Ireland if it is necessary to save the life of the woman or if there is a risk of serious, long term damage to her physical or mental health.

HOW IS IT ASSESSED?

Two doctors should normally assess a woman seeking an abortion, though in emergencies one doctor can carry out the assessment. A psychiatrist should be involved if the woman has a history of mental illness.

MUST STAFF CARRY OUT THE PROCEDURE?

No-one should compel staff to participate in an assessment or in performing an abortion. The right to conscientious objection should be respected expect in circumstances when the woman's life is in danger and emergency action needs to be taken.

If a GP feels unable to give advice or assessment in relation to an abortion they should refer the woman to another doctor.

WHAT IS THE WOMAN TOLD?

The woman seeking an abortion must be competent to understand the procedure and its alternatives in broad terms. The decision must be voluntary and made on the basis of sufficient, accurate information.

WHAT HELP IS THERE?

Women who are considering or who have undergone an abortion, regardless of where it is carried out, should have access to counselling services. The counselling should be non-judgmental and non-directive.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER?

Aftercare services should be available to any woman who has complications following an abortion regardless of where it was carried out.

WHAT INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE?

Verbal advice should be supported by accurate, impartial printed information that the woman can understand and may take away to consider further. Boards and Trusts should liaise to develop information leaflets



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