Rape and Abortion

Rape is one of the conditions in which abortion is legal in the UK. It is deemed necessary to allow women the choice of an abortion because their mental and/or physical health could be at serious risk if they were forced to keep the child of the rapist.

This is a view generally accepted by the British populace, religious leaders, and politicians. However, there is still considerable opposition to rape as grounds for abortion.

Not the Fault of the Child

One of the most pervasive and persuasive arguments against rape being grounds for abortion is that it would unduly punish and destroy what would otherwise be a healthy foetus. Abortion is legal in cases of foetal abnormality and this is much less contentious in general opinion. In cases of rape, the foetus has the same chance of foetal abnormality as any other, so some people oppose the destruction of a baby that if it were not for the circumstances of its conception, would be welcomed into the world.

The legal counter to this argument is that because carrying the baby to term would be so traumatic to the mother that it could pose a significant risk to her long-term mental or physical health, on human rights grounds she should be given the option to abort. The reality that many women will seek abortions in cases of rape, regardless of its legality, make the availability of abortion a practical necessity.


There is still enormous stigma surrounding rape. A child born of rape faces possible discrimination and almost certainly a lot of soul searching and confusion about their nature as they get to the point where they can understand how they came to be conceived. A mother might be reminded every day of the rape by their child and this could cause significant distress. There are always adoption services, but as with all aspects of rape, there are no good answers. Most would argue that these reasons are not reasonable grounds for aborting a foetus; the child grown will most likely be grateful for their existence.

Rights of the Father

The rapist is still the father of that foetus and some people argue that they should still have a say in what happens to it, like any other pregnancy. This is not currently supported by UK law.

Proving Rape

In order to obtain an abortion for rape, the woman does not need to have made a complaint to the police. If the doctor presiding over the case is satisfied that a rape has indeed occurred after examining the woman and that her mental or physical health were to be at risk, the abortion can proceed. The priority is the safety and wellbeing of the woman. Bringing rape cases to court usually takes over 2 years in the UK, so securing a conviction is out of the question.

Support for Women who have been Raped

Abortion clinics and hospitals all have trained specialists who know how to deal best with cases of rape. There is immediate medical support offered, like emergency contraception and whatever treatment the woman needs for her body to recover.

In the long term, there are dozens of rape survivors groups across the UK who offer expert advice, support, and guidance for people who have been the victims of rape.

Organisations like Rape Crisis offer immediate and long-term support. They understand how difficult it is to come forward and talk about such a traumatic event and will help you on every step of the way to recovery and compensation.


If you are seeking compensation after being raped, you will need to make a formal complaint to the police. This may involve testifying in court or to a prosecution team about your ordeal. This process is made as easy as possible but can still be difficult. Only when the rapist has been convicted can you access compensation but you can make the application before the outcome of the case.

As we are not lawyers you should get the appropriate advice but there is generally a 2 year limit for rape compensation claims after the incident or when you reported it to the police with adults, it is different if the victim was under the age of 18. Because it is so difficult to come forward and talk about rape, there can be considerable leeway in these rules.

Claiming compensation is your right. Exercising your right can help you get the counselling and help you need to put this traumatic event behind you and build a new life. Nobody has to be defined by what someone else does to them.

Moving Forward

Whether you seek an abortion in the case of rape or not, moving forward with your life will not be easy. The majority of people are able to leave what happened to them behind and move on with their life, this is partly due to the enormous support and assistance there is available for people who have been raped.

Making a decision about whether to abort a foetus conceived by rape is an extraordinarily difficult ethical choice. With the help of your doctor, friends, and family, you should be able to make the right choice for you.

How Safe is having an Abortion?

Abortions are one of the most routine medical procedures performed in the UK. Long gone are the days of coat hangers and invasive surgery, now a pill can even induce an abortion in relative safety. Occasionally, an abortion needs to be surgically induced but it is mostly a routine and safe procedure.

There are risks, however, and an abortion is only legal when performed by a licensed medical practitioner for good reasons. In the UK, abortions can only be carried out in licensed clinics or hospitals. In countries where abortion is illegal or heavily restricted, many women who need to have an abortion find themselves administering these drugs themselves and putting themselves at risk of harm or even death.

Before you have an abortion, you need to arrange for an assessment with the licensed doctor. This assessment involves answering questions about why you are having an abortion, to make you aware of the risks, to offer you counselling, and to perform an STD and pregnancy test.

Complications of Abortion

Having an abortion is usually safe, but there are occasionally complications. Very rarely are they life threatening. With appropriate medical care, the patient almost always recovers very quickly.

Remnants of the Pregnancy in the Womb

In about 1 in 20 cases, some of the matter from the pregnancy does not get flushed out with the rest of the pregnancy. This poses an infection risk but is easily manageable with further treatment.

Pregnancy Continuation

1 in 100 pregnancies result in a continuation, where the pregnancy is not terminated successfully and the patient will need further treatment. This is rarely dangerous but can be traumatic for the patient, who will need continued support.

Womb Infection

About 1 in every 10 abortions results in an infection in the womb. These are rarely life threatening and most infections respond very well to antibiotics. This very rarely affects a woman’s fertility.


Very rarely (about 1 in every 1,000 abortions) does an abortion cause excessive bleeding, but it is a real risk. Because the patient is in a medical facility when she is obtaining an abortion, there are surgeons and blood transfusions on hand, reducing the risk substantially.

Cervical Damage

In 1 in every 100 surgical abortions there is damage to the cervix, the entrance to the womb. This is painful, an infection risk, and very occasionally harms a woman’s fertility, but in the vast majority of cases is relatively easily remedied.

Womb Damage

Rarer than cervical damage, damage to the womb occurs in about 1 in every 1,000 surgical abortions and 1 in every 1,000 chemically induced abortions in the later stages of pregnancy (the risk rising as the patient approaches the 24 weeks threshold).

Mental Health Issues

Even though having an abortion can be a traumatic and deeply upsetting occurrence, women who have an abortion are no more likely to develop mental health issues as a result than women who continue with their pregnancy.

Breast Cancer

Although it has been rumoured, there is no evidence whatsoever that having an abortion increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

After the Abortion

Abortions can be traumatic to the body, there is no escaping a small amount of damage. Most women experience period-like pain and/or bleeding from the vagina in the days after having an abortion. Keep the doctor who is managing your case informed and it can be managed effectively. The pains usually go away after a week or two. It should be stressed that this is the body healing itself and it’s perfectly normal.

Risk Factors

After having an abortion, the patient should be aware of excessive bleeding. Large clots of blood or more than 2 sanitary pads in the space of an hour is an indication that the patient should seek medical help.

Pains are common after an abortion, but if the pain is unmanageable with regular painkillers, it would be prudent to seek medical advice as it could be the sign of a number of conditions.

Vaginal discharge is expected after an abortion but if it has a bad smell, it is an indicator of an infection in the womb or cervix and should be dealt with in a hospital.

Fevers are indications of infections, so if the patient is running a temperature, sweating excessively, or feeling any of the other symptoms of fever, they should present themselves at the clinic they obtained the abortion at for treatment.

Sore breasts and waves of nausea are indications that something is not right, and the patient should tell their doctor about these symptoms.


Abortions do not affect the patient’s fertility. Only if there is severe surgical damage or a severe infection does a risk to fertility occur. Pelvic inflammatory disease can reduce the fertility of a woman or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. This is very rare. With appropriate care and antibiotics, the infection can be cured and the risk to fertility reduced significantly.

In fact, most women can get pregnant immediately after having an abortion, so the use of contraception is advised.

Repeated abortions do slightly increase the risk of premature birth.