Abortion limit reduction favoured by Jeremy Hunt

 
woman sitting on bench Department of Health figures show there were 190,000 abortions in England and Wales last year

Related Stories

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he would favour a change in the law to halve the limit on abortions from 24 weeks into a pregnancy to 12.

His comments to the Times came after Women's Minister Maria Miller called for a 20-week limit.

The home secretary said she would also "probably" back a change to 20 weeks but reiterated Number 10's view that there were no plans to change the law.

The remarks have prompted criticism from some pro-choice campaign groups.

A Downing Street spokesman insisted Mr Hunt - who was speaking ahead of the Conservative conference - was expressing purely personal views.

Later Prime Minister David Cameron stressed abortion was an "issue of conscience" and Mr Hunt was "absolutely entitled to hold an individual view".

"But people need to know the government has got no plans to bring forward any legislation in this area and any vote that does happen will be a free vote," he said.

Mr Cameron added he "personally" favoured a "modest reduction" from the current limit of 24 weeks, "because I think there are some medical arguments for that".

"But I don't agree with the 12-week limit and that's not the government's policy," he said.

'Scope for reduction'

The 24 week limit applies to England, Wales and Scotland. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except in exceptional medical circumstances, such as when the mother's health is at risk.

There were nearly 190,000 abortions for women in England and Wales last year.

The figures, from the Department of Health, also suggest the vast majority - 91% - were carried out in under 13 weeks.

Welsh Health Minister, Lesley Griffiths, said: "I've read Jeremy Hunt's remarks about reducing the time limit and this is something that I cannot countenance as being in the best interests of women in Wales.

"Should the UK government make any formal proposals to change the law, I will be strongly opposing such a move."

"Women, not the health secretary, are the best judges and the best makers of moral decision"

Mr Hunt told the Times he felt 12 weeks was "the right point".

He said he wants to see a significant reduction in the limit which would prevent almost all abortions past that time.

The new health secretary, who is only a few weeks into his job, said he had reached the conclusion after studying the evidence.

"It is just my view about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start.

"I don't think the reason I have that view is for religious reasons."

Labour shadow public health minister, Diane Abbott, said ministers should not be "playing politics with people's lives".

She said there was a "sustained ideological attack on the science and the rights that British women and families have fought for".

But speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Home Secretary Theresa May said the government was "right" to take the position it had, reiterating there were "no plans to reduce the abortion limit".

She added: "I think there is some scope for some reduction. My own view is probably a reduction to 20 weeks, but as I say that is a personal view of mine."

The Department of Health also said Mr Hunt had expressed his own opinion and the government's policy on abortion was clear.

'Lack of understanding'

Earlier this week, Ms Miller told the Daily Telegraph the legal abortion limit should be lowered to 20 weeks because care for extremely premature babies had improved.

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, vice chairman of a parliamentary pro-life group, also said the limit should be cut.

Start Quote

Abortion is an absolutely key part of women's healthcare - clearly he hasn't looked at the scientific evidence around this ”

End Quote Darinka Aleksic Abortion Rights

"The existing laws on abortion lag well behind recent breakthroughs in science," he said.

Darinka Aleksic, from pressure group Abortion Rights, said it was "absolutely outrageous" that the health secretary wants to "radically restrict access to those services".

"Abortion is an absolutely key part of women's healthcare. Clearly he hasn't looked at the scientific evidence around this at all because there's no medical basis for reducing the abortion time limit," she said.

Professor Wendy Savage, a gynaecologist who has campaigned for years on women's rights, also told the BBC she had been left "speechless" by Mr Hunt's comments.

"It does not bode well that he's the secretary of state for health. What we really should be doing is decriminalising abortion."

Elsewhere, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service's Clare Murphy said the remarks reflected "a lack of understanding of why women need later services".

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 1257.

    I believe abortion limit should be lowered, this time last year my wife gave birth to twin boy and a girl .they weighed under a pound and doctors told us that their survival chances were below 0% , 1year on and when you see them you wouldn't even think they were premature, they are just like any other baby . So my kids are a living example that the law needs to be changed

  • rate this
    +178

    Comment number 95.

    As a personal opinion, I don’t like even the thought of abortion. But I hate the idea of back street abortions even more. I hope Hunt’s opinion never becomes policy.

  • rate this
    +234

    Comment number 41.

    If medical opinion recommends a particular no of weeks as medically safe then the moral issue is determined by the individual wishing, or not wishing, for an abortion. It is about time that the beginning of life and the end of life issues were points of personal agency not bound by other's religious views.

  • rate this
    -240

    Comment number 39.

    This is a small first step to equalising equal reproductive right between men and women. Women get to decide whether or not to have the baby but men do not have any say in the matter, not even if they're sperm jacked.

    Either ban abortions or give men the right to say 'I don't want to be a father'

  • rate this
    -264

    Comment number 30.

    This is good news and hopefully will be implemented. Killing human life in the womb should be illegal, but reducing the time allowed to kill by half is a good step in the right direction.

    I wonder at what stage those who support abortion, would have supported their mothers right to kill them and prevent them experiencing life.

 

Comments 5 of 8

 

More Health stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.