BY SCO Admin | October 12 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Abortion limits come into question

— Ministers speak of personal preferences to reduce 24-week limit on abortion

THE SNP Health Secretary Alex Neil has joined a growing ministerial consensus north and south of the border that the 24-week limit on abortion should be reduced.

Mr Neil’s statement that advances in medical science meant there was a case for altering the current legislation was met with approval from a Church spokesman and chimed with views recently expressed by the UK health and women’s ministers.

Personal opinion

“I do think there is a case to be had for a reduction from 24 weeks,” Mr Neil said. “I do think there is now a case, given the state of medical science and the fact that babies do survive from a much earlier stage in the pregnancy. I do think there is a case for looking to bring down the number of weeks, but that is a personal opinion.”

Mr Neil (above) declined to say exactly what sort of reduction he would support saying it was something for legislators to consider.

“I actually think the limit is something we need to look at, but I don’t think you can pick a number of weeks out of the air,” he said. “That is something you would want to take evidence on and find out what the consensus is. I don’t think it is for politicians to pick an arbitrary number of weeks out of the air. There has to be evidence on the right way to go.”

Previously, First Minister Alex Salmond has said he personally supports a reduction in the time limit for termination from 24 to 20 weeks and has said he would back the creation of an independent commission to examine UK abortion laws.


Peter Kearney, a spokesman for Scotland’s bishops, said Mr Neil’s comments were ‘constructive’ but did not reflect SNP policy.

“I think his point would be there is no reason why it would not be on the agenda if the SNP won the independence referendum,” Mr Kearney said. “I would say they are constructive and considered comments and I would certainly hope they reflect a growing concern among many about the current abortion time limit.

“If it was the SNP’s policy to reduce the limit, that might have an impact on Catholics and others, but as things stand it is a personal opinion and something that could only possibly apply post-independence.”

Westminster debate

South of the border, the new Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has said he supports a reduction in the time limit for women to have abortions from 24 to 12 weeks across the UK

“I am not someone who thinks that abortion should be made illegal,” he said. “Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when that moment is, and my own view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it. I do not think the reason I have that view is for religious reasons… there are some issues that cut across health and morality, a bit like capital punishment does for crime.”

The new Minister for Women and Equalities has also called for a change in the abortion laws.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who is also in charge of women’s issues and equalities policy, said the legal limit for abortions should be cut from 24 weeks to 20.

However, the UK’s largest pro-life group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) dismissed the minister’s comments as ‘journalistic hype.’

“There is a large pro-abortion majority in parliament which will ensure that any time-limiting amendments are rejected while using the opportunity to push for pro-abortion amendments,” Anthony Ozimic, SPUC communications manager, said. “The real political debate about abortion in the UK should focus, as it does elsewhere in the world, on the right to life of all unborn children and on the way governments bankroll abortion access at home and abroad.”







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