4 October 2012

UK: Women’s Minister argues for lower abortion time limit

Maria Miller, the new Women's Minister, has told the Daily Telegraph that the legal abortion limit should be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks in England, Wales and Scotland.

She told the paper that it was “common sense” as the care for extremely premature babies had improved rapidly, BBC News Online reports.

Miller voted for a 20-week limit in 2008. In an interview, she said she would do the same again:

“You have got to look at these matters in a very common-sense way. I looked at it from the really important stance of the impact on women and children. What we are trying to do here is not to put obstacles in people’s way but to reflect the way medical science has moved on.”

A review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists two years ago said there was no scientific evidence to justify a lower limit.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, said:

“We don’t want more legislation and wrangling in Parliament about the time limit on abortions, we absolutely don’t. To see the issue of unwanted pregnancies just through the idea of restricting abortions, I think that that is exactly the wrong way for Maria Miller to be starting off her discussion on this.”

The Department of Health said it had no plans to review abortion laws. Any decision would be a free vote in Parliament.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said:

“Scientific evidence does not show that survival rates before 24 weeks have improved in recent years, as the minister seems to believe. But it is also important for a women’s minister to recognise that every year a small number of women in often very difficult and unenviable circumstances will need to end a pregnancy after 20 weeks.”

Millar’s comments sparked several comment pieces, linked to below; and an article by Clare Murphy of BPAS on the Huffington Post, explaining ‘Why the Women’s Minister Shouldn’t Deny Women Later Abortion’.

Lower abortion limit, says Women’s Minister Maria Miller. BBC News Online, 3 October 2012

Also read:

Cathy Newman talks about her own abortion and talks to Maria Miller, the new minister for women and equalities, about her controversial support to reduce the abortion time limit. By Cathy Newman, Presenter, Channel 4 News. Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2012

Abortion: The minister and the moral minefield. By Jeremy Laurance. Independent, 4 October 2012

Why Maria Miller is wrong about abortion rights. By Jane Martinson. Guardian, 3 October 2012

It’s time we talked sensibly about abortion. Daily Telegraph, 3 October 2012

The abortion time limit and why it should remain at 24 weeks. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2008