From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Women's experience of termination of pregnancy

Understanding the experiences of women seeking abortion could help to inform the planning of service delivery and development of preventive interventions. Later termination is a key priority area for the Scottish Government and we were commissioned to undertake research in this area.

The legal limit for abortion in Great Britain is 24 weeks, except when it is to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, to save the life of the pregnant woman, or for severe fetal abnormality. However, the provision of later termination of pregnancy varies between NHS health boards in Scotland and most do not provide abortion after 18 weeks gestation (unless for the above exceptions). Currently, women requesting termination after 18-20 weeks have to travel to England for the procedure.

Current Research

We conducted an in-depth qualitative study of 23 women who presented for second trimester termination of pregnancy in Scotland. Specifically, we investigated the experience of those between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, having terminations under ground C of the Abortion Act 1967 (which is that continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman). We examined the reasons for women presenting later; the consequences of later presentation; the experiences of women who travel to England for a termination; and of those who do not go on to have a termination.

For more information please see the project website.

We are now in the process of conducting a follow up, quantitative survey to further explore where delays can occur in the pathway to abortion and to further address the gap in knowledge relating to later TOP.



Purcell C, Cameron S, Caird L, Flett G, Laird G, Melville C, McDaid LM. Access to and experience of later abortion: accounts from women in Scotland. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2014;46:101–108

open access