Lower abortion limit, says Women's Minister Maria Miller

Maria Miller

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The legal abortion limit should be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks in England, Wales and Scotland, according to the new Women's Minister Maria Miller.

She told the Daily Telegraph that it was "common sense" as the care for extremely premature babies had improved rapidly.

A review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists two years ago said there was no scientific evidence to justify a lower limit.

She voted for a 20-week limit in 2008.

In an interview, she said she would do the same again: "You have got to look at these matters in a very common-sense way. I looked at it from the really important stance of the impact on women and children.

"What we are trying to do here is not to put obstacles in people's way but to reflect the way medical science has moved on."

The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, said: "We don't want more legislation and wrangling in Parliament about the time limit on abortions, we absolutely don't.

"To see the issue of unwanted pregnancies just through the idea of restricting abortions, I think that that is exactly the wrong way for Maria Miller to be starting off her discussion on this."

The Department of Health said it had no plans to review abortion laws. Any decision would be a free vote in Parliament.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service's chief executive Ann Furedi said: "Scientific evidence does not show that survival rates before 24 weeks have improved in recent years, as the minister seems to believe.

"But it is also important for a women's minister to recognise that every year a small number of women in often very difficult and unenviable circumstances will need to end a pregnancy after 20 weeks."

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except in limited circumstances.

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