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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Lord Steel's re-think on abortion
A 23 week old foetus in the womb
A 23-week-old foetus in the womb
The architect of Britain's abortion laws has called for the legal limit for terminations to be halved to just 12 weeks for "social" reasons.

Lord Steel, former liberal leader, said medical advances meant complications could be detected earlier and said the current limit of 24 weeks was outdated.

The retired presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament introduced the controversial Abortion Bill in 1966.

It became law in 1967 with backing from the then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins.

Foetus survival

Speaking to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, Lord Steel said: "If it's simply the decision of the mother then the limit should be 12 weeks. I personally believe it's likely to happen.

"When we introduced the Act it was always the intention that the operation should be carried out as early as possible.

"Advances in medical technology mean that a large number of problems and abnormalities are now detectable at an earlier stage than they were in previous years. Also, a foetus can survive at an earlier stage than it could in the past."

The 1967 Act legalised abortion in the UK and set a time limit of 28 weeks.

It was cut to 24 weeks in 1990, with termination only permitted in the case of severe disabilities.

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