Doctors to vote on earlier and quicker abortions

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The Independent Online

Women should have the right to ask for earlier and quicker abortions to save unnecessary distress and anxiety, Britain's doctors will be told this week.

The controversial motion will be presented at the British Medical Association's annual conference on Thursday by the pregnancy expert Professor Wendy Savage.

Her motion comes in the wake of renewed demands for an overhaul of the UK's 40-year-old abortion legislation. Church leaders, peers and MPs believe the time limit should be cut from 24 weeks to 21 weeks because increasing numbers of premature babies are surviving after 23 and 24 weeks' gestation.

Last year's BMA conference rejected a motion calling for this reduction because women facing sudden crises in their lives and pregnancies would be denied late abortions, and because of the high risk of severe disability affecting very premature babies.

Professor Savage's motion says the law in Britain should be aligned with other European states by removing the requirement to get two doctors to agree to an early termination. "An induced abortion is safer the earlier it is performed," it states.

Roger Smith, a Christian ethics campaigner, said he opposed any relaxation of the law. "This issue is where the debate starts and finishes: women's rights against those of the unborn. We have to give precedence to the life that has no voice. We've plenty of advocates for women, but who are the advocates for the ones without a voice?"