Counselling is generally included as part of the abortion process in all Australian States and Territories. 'Counselling' is an umbrella term, which includes advice, information, support, education and therapy. Ideally, counselling offers a woman a non-judgemental opportunity to work through her feelings.
Counselling is generally included as part of the abortion process in all Australian States and Territories. Many women feel uncomfortable or unable to talk with friends and relatives, so professional counselling offers a valuable and much-needed resource.
‘Counselling’ is an umbrella term, which includes advice, information, support, education and therapy. It is important that the various types of counselling be given to the woman at the right time, and all information should be confidential.
Ideally, counselling offers a woman who is considering abortion a non-judgemental and non-directional opportunity to work through her feelings and thoughts. In some cases, the partner or parent also requests access to counselling.
The woman should be respected
Numerous studies have shown that women are more likely to experience negative emotional outcomes if they feel the decision to end the pregnancy wasn’t fully theirs to make. In any counselling situation, the central aim is to respect the woman’s feelings and facilitate her independent decision-making. Counsellors need to be empathetic and highly trained in interpersonal skills.
Counselling should support the woman to make a free and fully informed decision about her pregnancy options. This includes offering information about alternatives – including keeping the child or giving up the child for adoption – in situations where the woman hasn’t yet made up her mind. Generally, if a woman feels she has made the right decision, she will rarely request follow-up counselling.
Details on the logistics of the operation – including what to expect, how long it takes and the related costs – should be offered to all women seeking abortion as a matter of course. The woman will need to discuss such issues as the procedure itself, anaesthesia options, and pre and post-operative care. Part of the decision-making process includes being fully informed of the associated risks.
After the abortion, some women want to talk about their experiences to a sympathetic counsellor. Although follow-up counselling is offered to all women, some decide not to take it. Issues such as physical and emotional recovery and contraceptive options are usually discussed.
For some women, the experience of an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent abortion is highly traumatic. Feelings of grief, guilt, shame, depression and anxiety need to be handled by a highly trained and skilled counsellor. Appropriate counselling can minimise the risk of long-term psychological harm.
Counselling is also important when a woman is considering an abortion after a planned pregnancy. Even when a pregnancy has been welcomed, it can be a shock to be told that there are problems with the pregnancy or that the health of the unborn child is likely to be affected in some way. A woman may be faced with the emotional decision about whether to abort or not. Genetic or pregnancy counselling is available to support parents in making their decision.
Not all counselling is unbiased
Most counsellors seek to help women who are faced with a difficult life choice. They aim to help women explore the options that are available. Unfortunately some organisations, which profess to offer ‘family planning services’, do not aim to discuss a variety of options with women. They tend to have a particular point of view, which is all they offer to women.
Some women have reported that, while the thought of abortion wasn't traumatic at first, it became so during the counselling process. The counsellors in these cases tended to pass judgement and try to impose their own moral, ethical or religious beliefs. In some instances, incorrect or misleading medical information was given about the procedure.
In Victoria any woman of any age can attend an abortion clinic and access abortion until she is 24 weeks pregnant. Abortion after 24 weeks is legal, though it is usually performed for severe fetal abnormalities. A health practitioner who has a ‘conscientious objection’ to providing abortion information must refer any woman seeking information about abortion services to another doctor who does not object.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Family Planning Victoria Tel. 1800 013 952 or (03) 9257 0100 or The Action Centre (for young people less than 25 years) Tel. 1800 013 952 or (03) 9654 4766
- Women’s health centre
- Victorian Clinical Genetics Services Tel. (03) 8341 6201
- Marie Stopes Tel. 1800 003 707
Things to remember
- Counselling is generally included as part of the abortion process in all Australian States and Territories.
- ‘Counselling’ is an umbrella term, which includes advice, information, support, education and therapy.
- Counselling ideally offers a woman a non-judgemental opportunity to work through her feelings about her pregnancy.
You might also be interested in:
Want to know more?
Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
(Logo links to further information)
The Better Health Channel
Last reviewed: June 2012
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.
For the latest updates and more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
Copyight © 1999/2013 State of Victoria. Reproduced from the Better Health Channel (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au) at no cost with permission of the Victorian Minister for Health. Unauthorised reproduction and other uses comprised in the copyright are prohibited without permission.