BMA guidance

Confidentiality and crimes related to abortion

This guidance provides advice to doctors who may be uncertain about their obligations to respect confidentiality when they know, or suspect, that a patient has unlawfully attempted to end their pregnancy.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 31 January 2024
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

What you'll get from this guidance

  • Clear advice on how to remain compliant with rules on confidentiality when a doctor suspects, or has evidence, that an individual has tried to end their pregnancy outside the terms of UK abortion legislation
  • Clarification on the law and professional obligations of confidentiality in relation to disclosures of confidential information to the police.
  • What factors to consider when deciding whether a disclosure to the police is justifiable in accordance with GMC guidance

You may also be interested to see our core ethics guidance


  • Is abortion a crime?
  • Is there an obligation to report unlawful attempts to terminate a pregnancy to the police?
  • Is disclosure to the police justified ‘in the public interest’?
  • What factors should be considered when deciding whether information can be disclosed in the public interest?
  • Seeking guidance from a Caldicott Guardian
  • Documenting decisions