John Hayes, Chairman of the Cornerstone Group of Tory MPs, yesterday urged Leader of the House Jack Straw to facilitate a Committee of both Houses to examine Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor's call for a review of abortion law. 31 MPs have, so far, signed a Commons motion backing the call. Before last year's General Election Michael Howard expressed sympathy for a lower abortion limit.
The abortion laws were once coupled with the Infant Life Preservation Act which was interpreted by some to mean that foetuses that could survive outside of the womb, independently, could not be aborted. Advances in the technologies that treat premmaturely-born babies mean that many of the 3,000 unborn children aborted after 20 weeks' gestation could probably survive. The current abortion limit is 24 weeks. A recent Observer/ MORI poll found that "47% of women believe the legal limit for an abortion should be cut from its present 24 weeks, and another 10% want the practice outlawed altogether".
Mr. Straw rejected Mr Hayes' request for a Joint Committee but suggested that the Select Committee on Health could establish its own inquiry. Mr Hayes has told ConservativeHome that he now intends to petition the Health Select Committee to hold such an enquiry.
Related link: Bob Spink MP calls for a review of abortion laws