Health secretary Jeremy Hunt calls for abortion limit to be cut to 12 weeks
HEALTH secretary Jeremy Hunt has said abortion laws should be tightened to ban women from having the procedure any later than 12 weeks into a pregnancy.
• Health secretary has voiced approval for a 12-week limit on abortions on eve of Conservative Party conference
• Jeremy Hunt says Christian faith is not a factor in his view
• Current legal limit is 24 weeks
Mr Hunt voiced his support for the controversial move in an interview on the eve of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
The existing limit is 24 weeks, and any push to cut it in half is guaranteed to be controversial.
Mr Hunt, who was given the health brief in last month’s reshuffle, said his view on cutting the limit had not been influenced by his Christian faith.
He said a change in the law would be a matter for a free vote in parliament.
“Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when they think that moment is, and my view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Hunt stressed he did not support banning abortions altogether.
Minister for women Maria Miller also publicly backed an abortion limit reduction earlier this week.
She suggested cutting the limit to 20 weeks, not 12, to “reflect the way science has moved on”, with doctors now able to save the lives of babies born before 24 weeks in some cases.
But Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow public health minister, was quick to criticise the proposed change, saying the government had its priorities wrong.
“I think women and families across the country will find it staggering that the priority for this government is playing politics with people’s lives like this,” she said. “We’re seeing a sustained ideological attack on the science, and the rights that British women and families have fought for.
“There is no evidence to support a reduction in the abortion time limit and this view is supported across the medical profession. Late abortion only affects a small number of women, who are often in extremely challenging circumstances.”
Those opposed to Mr Hunt’s view say a 12-week limit would prevent testing for conditions such as Down’s syndrome.
About 91 per cent of abortions take place before 12 weeks.
The legal time limit for an abortion in Britain was cut in 1990 from 28 to 24 weeks. Terminations were illegal altogether before the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act.
The existing limit broadly represents the point at which a foetus is said to become “viable”.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east