Moral Maze: Blair treads sensitive line

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair last night was facing renewed pressure over his views on the family in the row over teenage pregnancies.

Mr Blair may feel uncomfortable with suggestions from ministers that abortion should be made easier and that contraception should be more readily available to young girls. A committed Christian whose wife, Cherie, is a Roman Catholic, Mr Blair has admitted he finds the issue difficult, although he has supported abortion law reform in the past.

The Prime Minister came under fire last October from the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, for failing to condemn "the evil" of abortion.

His position was explained by a party spokesman in 1996: "Tony Blair is not hypocritical at all. He has a perfectly clear position. He thinks no one is in favour of abortion, nor thinks it is a good thing.

"The issue is whether we should use the criminal law to take choice away from people who have been placed in agonisingly difficult circumstances. He does not think as a legislator that the criminal law should prevent women from making that choice."

A Downing Street spokesman yesterday distanced Mr Blair from Mr Dobson. "The position on abortion has not changed," he said. That was seen as a clear signal that there are no plans to change the law, in spite of the opinions of the Health Secretary.

The Labour landslide has reinforced the majority in the Commons heavily in favour of abortion law reform.