1. ITV Report

Health Secretary backs 12-week legal limit on abortions

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire/Press Association Images

David Cameron was last night facing demands to reopen the debate on Britain's abortion laws after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for the current time limit to be halved to 12 weeks.

Tory MPs opposed to the current 24-week term limit seized on Mr Hunt's remarks to signal the start of a new push in Parliament to tighten the existing law.

ITV News' Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:

But the move horrified women's rights activists who warned that such a drastic reduction could effectively prevent testing for conditions such as Down's syndrome.

The Prime Minister said the Government had no plans to legislate, although he hinted ministers would not stand in the way of MPs attempting to introduce a backbench Bill in the Commons.

Prime Minister David Cameron chats to nurses during a visit to the John Radcliffe Childrens Hospital in Oxford on Saturday. Credit: Paul Vicente/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May echoed Culture Secretary Maria Miller earlier this week in suggesting she would support a more limited reduction in the limit to 20 weeks.

However, it was the intervention of Mr Hunt, who was promoted to Health in Mr Cameron's Cabinet reshuffle, which galvanised the debate just as Conservatives were gathering in Birmingham for their annual party conference.

He told The Times:

Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when they think that moment is and my view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it.

It is just my view about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start.