New health minister opposed to abortion urged to reconsider stance 'that does not reflect the view of the electorate'

In a 2008 interview, Ben Gummer said he was 'personally and principally opposed' to the practice and has rejected calls to reassess his position

A leading healthcare charity has urged a Conservative MP to reconsider his stance on abortion following his appointment as junior health minister.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who has been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, has previously spoken out about his opposition to abortion.

“I am personally and principally opposed to abortion,” Mr Gummer said in a 2008 interview with The Guardian.

Following Mr Gummer’s appointment this week Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas), told The Independent: “It is concerning that ministers with roles that involve women’s health and equality apparently oppose abortion - their stance does not reflect the view of their electorate.”

 

She added that the majority of Conservative voters support a woman’s right to choose.

“The last parliament sadly saw a number of attempts to introduce fresh restrictions on abortion,” Ms Murphy said.

In 2012 Jeremy Hunt, who was reappointed Health Secretary this week, was widely condemned after revealing he personally favoured a move to halve the legal abortion limit from 24 weeks to 12.

Ms Murphy suggested that rather than seeking new ways to curb women’s “already restricted reproductive freedoms”, Mr Gummer and his colleagues should be moving to fully decriminalise abortion in the UK.

“Under current laws, a woman who ends a pregnancy at any gestation without the permission of two doctors can be sent to prison for 14 years,” Ms Murphy said.

“In Northern Ireland women have to travel to England to access abortion services which are outlawed at home, at great emotional and financial cost,” she added.

“If we must have a new British Bill of Rights, it would be very welcome if pregnant women were handed a few.”

Mr Gummer has rejected calls to reassess his position though. “This was a personal view expressed seven years ago," he told The Independent.

"Change to abortion law has always been a matter for Parliament, not for the Government. 

"It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members, not ministers, and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes, as with all matters of conscience.”

One woman in three in the UK will have had an abortion by the time she is 45, according to Bpas. In 2013 185,331 abortions were carried out in England and Wales.

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