POLITICS

Jeremy Hunt's Abortion Comments 'Completely Ignorant' Say British Medical Association

26/06/2013 19:28 BST

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt displayed "complete ignorance" when he made comments about abortion time limits when he first took up his post, leading doctors have said.

Controversy over the issue was reignited in October last year by an interview in which Mr Hunt said that he felt 12 weeks after conception was ''the right point'' for the limit on abortion, which currently stands at 24 weeks.

But medics at the British Medical Association's annual representative meeting in Edinburgh expressed concerns about Mr Hunt and other senior politicians expressing their personal views on abortion time limits.

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Jeremy Hunt showed 'profound lack of understanding'

Trainee doctor Dr Lucy-Jane Davis told delegates: "In recent months, Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May and Maria Miller have all expressed personal opinions about the time limit on termination of pregnancy.

"Whilst I understand that some people have a profound opposition to any termination, this is different, this is about reducing choice and restricting the care that we can offer to patients and their families.

"It also shows a profound lack of understanding of the screening process during pregnancy."

She said the limit was based on the fact that a wide range of foetal abnormalities including spina bifida and brain and heart problems, can only be detected at 20 weeks.

She added: "Senior political figures must obviously express views - but it would be helpful if they were better informed -and sounded less judgmental."

Professor Wendy Savage, a lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology and press officer for campaign group Doctors for a Women's Choice on Abortion, said: "I was horrified when Jeremy Hunt in his first public statement after becoming Secretary of Sate for Health was to say that he wished to reduce the time limit to 12 weeks.

"That betrays complete ignorance for the reasons why women wish to terminate their pregnancies, 90% do it before 13 weeks but the other 10% have good reason for wanting to do it later.

"Women have to make these choices and an arbitrary time limit makes these choices harder.

"Reducing the time limit would only affect a small minority of women who have a termination of pregnancy, it would do nothing to help our patients and it might cause immense harm."

Doctors at the meeting passed a motion which said: "This meeting is concerned by the personal views expressed by senior politicians on reducing the time limit for abortion.

"This meeting believes that in view of the technical limitations of screening at earlier gestational stages it would be unacceptable to change the time limit on abortion."

But some medics voted against the motion.

Dr Brenden Affley, a hospital consultant from Epsom, Surrey, told delegates that the motion was "chilling".

"Unacceptable to whom?" he asked.

"Unacceptable to the unborn children in the womb?

"Pity they can't speak for themselves.

"Let's remind ourselves what abortion is, it is the deliberate destruction of an unborn child."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said:"The way ministers have voted on this difficult issue is a matter of public record, but the law and the Government's policy on this are clear.

"Parliamentary practice is that any proposals to change abortion laws come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes."