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No plans to review abortion law, insists health minister Earl Howe


The Government has “no plans” to review the abortion laws, health minister Earl Howe insisted today.

Lord Howe told peers that despite his boss, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, last week speaking out in favour of halving the current 24-week term limit, the Government would not be taking action on the issue.

Home Secretary Theresa May and Culture Secretary Maria Miller have also suggested they would support a reduction in the limit to 20 weeks.

But at question time in the House of Lords, Lord Howe said: "The Government has no plans to review the 1967 Abortion Act. It is Parliamentary practice that any proposals to change the abortion laws come from backbench members and decisions are made on the basis of free votes."

For the Opposition, Baroness Thornton said people were "worried" following the statements from Mr Hunt and other senior ministers.

"Of course they are entitled to their personal views but we also need to know how that might influence public policy," she said.

And she asked Lord Howe to clarify that his initial answer meant "the Government will not support any change to the abortion time limit for the duration of this Parliament".

Lord Howe told her Mr Hunt had been expressing his "long-held personal view".

He added: "Successive governments have taken the view that they should rest on the evidence and there is currently no call from the main medical bodies that a review of the Act in relation to time limits is needed.

"The British Medical Association and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists support that view. I hope you regard that as a clear enough answer."