A debate on whether the upper time limit for abortion should be lowered will be held in Westminster Hall next week (31 October).
The debate, secured after a successful ballot in the House of Commons, will be led by MP Nadine Dorries who is expected to argue for a reduction in the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20.
The debate will not culminate in a vote but Ms Dorries hopes that a vote can take place in 2013.
“I am looking for a debate to take place probably in May or June next year, because that will give both the pro-life and pro-choice MPs time to muster their troops, prepare their arguments and prepare their debate”.
The debate next week comes after three Cabinet ministers – Jeremy Hunt, Maria Miller and Theresa May – recently said that they supported a change in the law for the upper limit of 24 weeks to be reduced.
Even Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier this month that he supported a “moderate” reduction “because there are some medical arguments” in its favour.
The ministers’ opinions appear to have put abortion back on the agenda. A number of writers have commented on the issue in mainstream media, with Dr Max Pemberton describing the current abortion laws as “inherently illogical and inconsistent”.
Writing in the Telegraph he said: “In the same hospital where doctors are trying to save a premature baby born at, say, 23 weeks, a woman down the corridor is legally allowed to undergo a late-stage abortion on a foetus of the same gestation. So on the one hand we throw considerable money and resources to try to save a baby’s life, while on the other we sanction its destruction”.
Mehdi Hasan criticised the pro-abortion lobby for treating a 12 week limit as too extreme in an article for the New Statesman.
He said: “Jeremy Hunt’s position is the norm across Western Europe: 12 weeks is the limit in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium. Then there’s how 91 per cent of British abortions are carried out in the first 13 weeks. You may disagree with a 12-week cut-off but to pretend it is somehow arbitrary, or extreme, or even unique is a little disingenuous”.
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Mr Hasan was subjected to abuse from abortion campaigners across Twitter after making the remarks earlier this month.
A majority of Conservative cabinet members have previously backed a change in the law, with 13 out of 16 – including Mr Cameron – voting to reduce the abortion limit during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in 2008.
Next week’s debate will be held in the MPs’ secondary debating chamber, Westminster Hall, on Wednesday morning.
“The abortion debate has been re-ignited”, said Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern.
“There is now public and ministerial support for a reduction in the upper time limit.
“The debate next week is a very positive step forward. The more people understand the impact of abortion, the more likely we will see better legislation which protects women and babies”.