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7 July 2006

MPs call for abortion law re-think

More than 60 MPs have signed a Commons motion backing a review of abortion time limits.

Science and technology committee chair Phil Willis said the issue should be looked at again, warning it was unwise to ignore changing circumstances. Lib Dem spokesman Evan Harris said there should be a full Parliamentary debate, although he was sceptical advances had brought fetal ‘viability’ to under 24 weeks. ‘I don’t know the answer and I think Parliament should have the opportunity to see the science before advancing,’ he added.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley agreed that abortion limits must be debated. He called for a free vote on all sides in the event of any legislative reform.

In June the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales reopened the abortion debate by urging the government to change the law. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has called on ministers to lower the 24-week abortion limit at a private meeting at the Department of Health. He wants a joint committee of both houses of parliament to review the 1967 Abortion Act. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor argued that technological advances meant the abortion laws are outdated.

Downing Street has said the prime minister believes the abortion laws are a matter for individual MPs rather than the government. Health Minister Caroline Flint said the issue was unlikely to be revisited.

Abortion time limit rethink urged, BBC News, 3 July 2006

Also read: ‘Women in difficult circumstances need support, not condemnation’, 21 June 2006