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Abortion Limit Should Be Lowered To 20 Weeks, Argues Maria Miller

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MARIA MILLER
Women's minister Maria Miller describes herself as a "very modern feminist" | PA

The legal abortion limit should be lowered to 20 weeks because of dramatic advances in medical science, according to the new women's minister.

Maria Miller said it was "common sense" to lower the limit from the current 24 weeks as care for extremely premature babies has improved so rapidly.

In some cases doctors are now able to save the lives of children born within six months of conception.

The advances have raise the moral dilemma of whether it is right to end pregnancies which could result in a healthy child, or to lower the limit and deny some women the right to make their own choice.

Mrs Miller told The Daily Telegraph: "You have got to look at these matters in a very common sense way.

"I looked at it from the really important stance of the impact on women and children.

"What we are trying to do here is not to put obstacles in people's way but to reflect the way medical science has moved on."

Her stance was welcomed by Tory MP Nadine Dorries who tabled a private members bill last year that would have banned organisations that carry out abortions such as Marie Stopes, from offering counselling.


Nadine Dorries MP
Maria Miller understands importance of recognising some women are traumatised by abortion process, that's real feminism

In response to Miller's comment, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) chief executive Ann Furedi said the minister did not understand the science.

"Scientific evidence does not show that survival rates before 24 weeks have improved in recent years, as the minister seems to believe," she said.

"But it is also important for a women's minister to recognise that every year a small number of women in often very difficult and unenviable circumstances will need to end a pregnancy after 20 weeks.

"Mrs Miller says she is driven by the impact abortion has on women. Staff at bpas would be extremely pleased to meet her and explain to her exactly what impact restricting abortion would have on the women we care for and their families."

Her comments come after figures revealed that England and Wales has the highest rate of abortions among women aged under 20 in Europe.

There are 22 terminations per 1,000 women aged between 15-19, according to the study by the Guttmacher Institute in New York.
In 2008, Mrs Miller voted in the Commons to reduce the legal limit for abortion to 20 weeks.

And the MP, who was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities in David Cameron's cabinet reshuffle last month, said she would "absolutely" do the same a second time.

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She insisted her decision to was not a snub to women's rights, describing herself as a "very modern feminist" who is "riven by that very practical impact that late-term abortion has on women".

Between 1 and 2% of abortions in Britain take place after 20 weeks, the equivalent of 3,000 terminations per year, according to The Telegraph.

Abortions after 24 weeks are permitted in rare circumstances where there is evidence of severe deformity in the baby or the mother's health is at serious risk.