Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Debate on abortion

The Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, has repeated her calls for the limit at which a foetus can be aborted to be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on 31 October 2012, she said she believed there was public support for a change in the existing 1967 law.

However, Health Minister Anna Soubry insisted the government had no intention to change the law.

She also announced that the government has called off a consultation on the way counselling is offered to women who are thinking of having an abortion.

The Department of Health was considering radical reforms to the way advice was offered. One of the changes proposed was forcing clinics to send women to independent advice centres.

Mrs Soubry said she realised the decision to call off the consultation would disappoint some MPs but added there was little point in continuing with it when the government had no intention of changing the law.

Despite voting in 2008 for a cut in the abortion time limit to 12 weeks, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt emphasised it was "not government policy to change the limit".

Abortion laws currently apply in England, Scotland and Wales, with a different set-up in Northern Ireland.

The province does not have an Abortion Act. Instead an 1861 law makes it a criminal offence to procure a miscarriage although in 1945 an exception was added that abortion could be permitted to preserve the life of the mother.

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