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UK health secretary backs 12-week abortion limit

Associated Press Modified: October 6, 2012 at 10:01 am •  Published: October 6, 2012

Supporters for reducing the current legal limit argue that abortions should not be allowed past 20 weeks because by then a baby is often "viable," or has potential for life.

Opponents argue that the current limit should be kept because severe health problems such as Down's syndrome are often not revealed in testing until later in the pregnancy. Some women may also not become aware they are pregnant at 12 weeks, or not have access to abortion services until later in their term. Women should be allowed to have a choice for later-term abortion in such cases, they say.

Hunt's comments followed recent comments by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, also the minister for women, who said she would like to see the law tightened so that the limit comes down to 20 weeks.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that he did not agree with Hunt's position, and instead personally favored a more "modest" reduction in the legal limit. Home Secretary Theresa May expressed similar views Saturday, telling the BBC in an interview that "there is scope for some reduction."

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that lowering the time limit would not reduce the abortion rate, and may only drive abortion procedures underground.

"Reducing the time limit to 12 weeks would severely limit women's choice at an extremely difficult time in their life," spokeswoman Dr. Kate Guthrie said.