No government plans for vote on abortion time limit

 

The Government has no plans to put forward legislation to reduce the time limit for abortion, Prime Minister David Cameron said today.

But he made clear that there were opportunities for MPs to bring about a vote in the Commons, which would be treated as a matter of conscience.

Speculation that the abortion time limit might be cut was sparked by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said that he would like to see a ban on terminations more than 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

But Mr Cameron today said that Mr Hunt was expressing his personal view, and not the position of the Government.

In any vote on abortion, MPs would be free to back whatever limit they thought right, said the PM, adding that he personally favoured a "modest" reduction from the current 24 weeks.

Mr Cameron told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "The Government hasn't got any plans to bring forward any legislation or bill.

"Parliament does vote from time to time about these issues. It does tend to vote once a Parliament or so. We now have, under this Government, the ability for Parliament to decide what it wants to vote on.

"My own view is that a modest reduction form 24 weeks would be right and I would vote for that. I voted against 12 weeks."

Mr Cameron said that Mr Hunt had not been intending to put the issue of abortion back on the agenda, but had simply been responding to press questions on the issue.

"He was asked a question because he previously voted for a 12-week limit and he said he has stuck to that view," said the PM.

"It is a vote of conscience issue and the Health Secretary is quite entitled to have his own opinion, but it is not the Government's approach."

Mr Hunt cheered campaigners for a reduction in the abortion time-limit with an interview in The Times in which he said: "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.

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

Home Secretary Theresa May and Culture Secretary Maria Miller pitched in with support for a more limited reduction to 20 weeks.

And Tory MPs seized on Mr Hunt's remarks to signal the start of a new push in Parliament to tighten the existing law.

The move horrified women's rights activists who warned that such a drastic reduction could effectively prevent testing for conditions such as Down's syndrome.

Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski - a strong critic of the existing legislation - said: "The Health Secretary coming out in favour of reigniting this debate will galvanise the caucus that exists in Parliament, cross-party, on this issue.

Fellow Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard, the vice chairman of the parliamentary pro-life group, said it was time for an "up-to-date" national debate on the term limits for abortions.

"The law currently lags behind recent scientific breakthroughs, where the survivability of young babies has increased greatly. It is time for the Government to make time for a full debate on the issue," he said.

But Professor Wendy Savage, a gynaecologist and long-standing campaigner on women's rights, expressed alarm at the prospect of another move to reduce the limit following the defeat in Parliament of the last attempt in 2008.

"The number of abortions that take place over 20 weeks is very small. Of those a considerable proportion are of foetuses which have got a congenital abnormality," she said.

"I think the majority of the population think that if somebody has got a foetus that, if born, will have a severe disability they should have the right to choose whether or not to continue with that pregnancy."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who speaks for Labour on women's issues, said Mr Hunt had shown a "chilling" disregard for the medical evidence.

"Jeremy Hunt's statements on abortion are deeply worrying and show the Health Secretary has given no serious consideration to women's health," she said.

PA

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam