Conservative leadership contender describe abortion law as ‘matter of conscience’ but rules out seeking rule change
Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt has restated his support for halving the abortion limit to 12 weeks, drawing criticism from opposition MPs.
Mr Hunt, a former health secretary, confirmed he stands by a previous statement that the legal limit for terminations should be set at 12 weeks rather than the current limit of 24 weeks.
‘Matters of conscience’
He told the Ridge on Sunday programme on Sky News: “These are matters of conscience; yes, my view hasn’t changed on that. I respect the fact other people have very different views and that’s why these matters are matters for free votes in the House of Commons.”
Mr Hunt, who is considered one of the front runners to replace Theresa May as prime minister, said he would not seek to change the law should he enter Downing Street.
But critics condemned his comments, pointing out that they come at a time when the Government he is seeking to lead is facing calls to give women the right to an abortion in Northern Ireland, where it is currently illegal.
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: “It is incredibly alarming to see the former health secretary and a candidate in the race to be the next prime minister hold such a view. Rather than attacking women’s rights we already have in some parts of the UK, the Tories should be fighting for them to be equal in Northern Ireland.”
She added: “So far, the Tory leadership race has shown how out of touch many of those putting themselves forward are.”
Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted: “It’s hard to keep up with who’s on drugs and who pretends to care about women. Jeremy Hunt, how about we base this stuff on evidence and science and keep what you think is best based on no experience out of this.”
Anti-abortion campaigners said a 12-week limit would bring the UK into line with the majority of European Union countries.
Clare McCarthy, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, said: “Polling shows there is strong support from women for reducing the abortion time limit. Seven out of ten women support reducing the abortion time limit to 20 weeks or below.”