Hunt may say he won’t change our laws to make them more regressive, but neither will we see the progress that all UK women deserveby Sian Norris / June 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt repeated his view that the upper time limit on abortion services should be reduced to 12 weeks from the current 24 during an interview on Ridge on Sunday.
Hunt has a history of voting for anti-choice legislation. In 2008 he voted to reduce the upper time limit to 12 weeks, and more recently voted in favour of criminalising sex-selective abortion (both votes failed to pass). As Home Secretary, Hunt blocked attempts to allow women to take the abortion pill misoprostal at home.
His comments, therefore, have provoked alarm from pro-choice campaigners. While Hunt claims he will not try to change the law on abortion if in power, they worry that his views could block any positive change to increase abortion access for women in the UK, and particularly in Northern Ireland.
12, 20 or 24 weeks?
Currently, the 1967 Abortion Act which covers England, Wales and Scotland allows for women to access a termination up to the 24th week of pregnancy, if she has permission from two doctors who conclude that continuing the pregnancy will harm her physical or mental health. A woman accessing abortion outside the provisions of the 1967 Act, for instance in Northern Ireland, faces a possible life sentence under the Victorian-era “Offences Against the Person Act.”
Most calls to reduce the upper time limit focus on 20 weeks, based on medical innovations that have increased life chances for premature babies. For example, in 2008 David Cameron and much of his shadow front bench voted in favour of cutting the upper time limit to 20 weeks.
Former Conservative Vice Chair for Women, Maria Caulfield, has also called to reduce the number of weeks a woman can access an abortion to around 20 weeks, claiming that more and more babies can survive being born at 18 or 19 weeks (a claim the British Pregnancy Advisory Service called “inaccurate”).
Calls to restrict the time limit to 20 weeks often ignore the complex reasons behind rare late term abortions, including fatal foetal abnormalities or health issues in the mother.
However, arguments about foetal viability fall apart entirely when restricting abortion to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when there is no chance of the baby surviving.
Who is harmed?
Any reduction to abortion services disproportionately…