The main points
- People undergoing abortion may experience a range of emotions before, during and after the procedure.
- Most people who have had an abortion feel they made the decision that was right for them at the time.
- For some people, the decision to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy will be clear, while for others it may be a difficult choice to make.
- Counselling is optional.
- When choosing a counsellor, counselling should be non-biased and non-directive and provide accurate information about all unplanned pregnancy options to support an informed, personal decision.
People undergoing abortion may experience a range of emotions before, during and after the abortion. Generally, how a person feels, will depend on the reasons for having the abortion, how comfortable they feel about their decision and access to information and support.
Although some people find it stressful, challenging or difficult in the short-term, in many cases these emotions peak before the procedure and resolve soon after, with most people feeling relieved that they made the decision that was right for them at the time.
Deciding whether to have an abortion
For some people, the decision of whether to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy will be clear, while for others it may be a difficult choice to make.
Factors that may be considered include:
- Relationship with partner.
- Family situation and support.
- Community, culture, religious and/or spiritual beliefs and support.
- Wellbeing of the foetus.
- Readiness to take on a parenting role.
- Needs of children they may already have.
- Study, career and financial situation.
- Mental and physical health.
- Feelings, thoughts and beliefs about pregnancy and options: abortion, adoption, fostering and parenting.
Who can I talk to?
It is usually helpful to find someone supportive to talk to when deciding on an abortion. Choose someone you trust. This may be your partner, a friend, a family member, a health professional or counsellor.
People might have a more positive experience of abortion if they have:
- access to accurate, non-biased information on all pregnancy options
- access to safe, confidential and non-judgmental support services
- access to non-directive counselling if needed
- time to explore feelings, thoughts and beliefs
- heard the experiences of other people who have had an abortion been able to make their own informed decision to have an abortion.
Stigma around abortion
Although most Australians support safe and legal abortion, there is still stigma surrounding the procedure. Be aware of stigma when choosing who to talk to about abortion and when looking at information online.
What if I choose counselling?
Many people reach a decision about an abortion without professional support. For others, particularly those having difficulty making a decision, counselling offers a valuable opportunity to talk in a safe and confidential environment. Counselling provides time to explore your feelings, thoughts, beliefs and response to pregnancy and your options.
Counselling should always be non-biased and non-directive. This means you need to be provided with accurate information to make the decision on what to do about your pregnancy. A health professional should not direct you to a decision.
Although the decision is yours, in some cases, a partner, friend or family member may also request counselling. Medicare-rebated non-directive pregnancy counselling is provided by some doctors, social workers, mental health nurses and psychologists. A general practitioner (GP) referral may be required. At Sexual Health Victoria we offer pregnancy choices information sessions with a nurse. These sessions provide non-biased, non-directive, accurate information about all unplanned pregnancy options and support people to make their own informed decision.
Not all abortion counselling is non-biased and non-directive
Some organisations that claim to offer pregnancy counselling or family planning services do not consider all options in a non-biased, non-directive way. It may be helpful to ask the organisation you are contacting what their position is regarding abortion before making an appointment.
Abortion and planned pregnancy
Some people may need to decide on whether or not to proceed with a planned pregnancy. Circumstances for this may include health problems of the pregnant person or foetus, mental health conditions, a relationship ending, a change in support or financial problems.
Abortion of a planned pregnancy can cause emotional distress and counselling may be helpful. In the event of possible abortion due to a health condition, genetic counselling is also an option.
As with abortion of an unplanned pregnancy, most people who decide on abortion following a planned pregnancy feel they made the right decision.
Abortion counselling on the day of procedure
While most people have made their decision before attending an abortion clinic, some will present to a clinic needing more information, support or counselling. Abortion service providers will ensure an informed decision has been made by the pregnant person prior to the procedure. This should include the provision of information about all options (surgical and medical abortion, parenting, adoption and foster care). If a decision is made to continue the pregnancy, referral to appropriate support services is made.
For those who have decided to proceed with an abortion, detailed information will be given about the procedure, anaesthesia (surgical abortion), pain relief and pre- and post-abortion care. Part of the decision-making process and consent includes being fully informed of the risks involved.
Follow-up counselling after abortion
After an abortion a follow-up appointment with a health professional or counsellor is an option some people choose.
Counselling to reduce harm
For a very small number of people, the experience of an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent abortion is traumatic and may lead to negative thoughts, including self-harm. If the experience of abortion is affecting the mental health of you or someone you know, speak with a health professional.
Where to get more information and support
- Sexual Health Victoria
- 1800 My Options phone line 1800 696 784
- A doctor or nurse
- Your local community health service
- A public hospital (some provide a limited number of free abortions)
- A private abortion provider
- A psychologist or counsellor
- Your youth worker, social worker, support worker
- An obstetrician or gynaecologist
- Better Health Channel
- Marie Stopes Australia
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
- The Women’s (The Royal Women’s Hospital)