Oct 5 2012
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he favours a sharp tightening of the law on abortion.
In an interview with The Times, Mr Hunt said the limit should be cut to 12 weeks into a pregnancy - half the current limit of 24 weeks.
Mr Hunt stressed that a change in the law would be a matter for a free vote in Parliament.
However Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who is also the minister for women, has said she also believes the law should be tightened - although she backs a limit of 20 weeks.
Mr Hunt stressed that his view that the limit should be reduced was not influenced by his Christian faith.
"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," he said.
"It is just my view about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start. I don't think the reason I have that view is for religious reasons."
Any move to reduce the legal limit for abortion would prove highly controversial. Although 91% of abortions take place before 12 weeks, opponents say that a 12 week limit would effectively prevent testing for conditions such as Down's syndrome.
Diane Abbott MP, Labour's shadow public health minister, said: "I think women and families across the country will find it staggering that the priority for this government is playing politics with people's lives, like this. We're seeing a sustained ideological attack on the science, and the rights that British women and families have fought for.
"There is no evidence to support a reduction in the abortion time limit and this view is supported across the medical profession. Late abortion only affects a small number of women, who are often in extremely challenging circumstances."