David Cameron continues to support lowering the abortion time limit from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The declaration follows a report last week by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) which concluded that unborn babies up to 24 weeks old can’t feel pain.
The RCOG claimed their report, which contradicted previous research, negated the need to review the UK’s abortion laws.
But a Number 10 spokesman has confirmed that the Prime Minister, who has previously expressed a wish to reduce the limit, remains in favour of a reduction.
The spokesman said: “While there are no Government plans to change the current limit, in the event that there was a private members’ bill, the Prime Minister’s personal view is that a moderate reduction in the limit would be desirable.”
But Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has previously voted against any such reduction.
The RCOG’s report also advised that anaesthetics don’t need to be administered to babies being aborted because they appear to be naturally sedated and unconscious in the womb.
However, pro-lifers have challenged the reports conclusions and warned that the debate over pain is a distraction from the real issue.
Professor Ken Mason, a pathologist and professor of medical law at the University of Edinburgh, cautioned: “To attempt to make a date when a foetus could feel pain is quite impossible”.
“There may be a limit before something could not happen, but that doesn’t mean there is not variation between individual foetuses”, he continued.
“I personally don’t think the foetus is given enough notice in this debate. But ultimately I believe that whether or not a foetus can feel pain can only be discussed in terms of scientific fact and that has nothing to do with the morality of abortion.”
And Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship, accused the RCOG of “cherry picking experts” to deliver “convenient conclusions”.
Writing on his blog Dr Saunders attacked the report, saying: “No dissenting expert voices it appears were given any platform. The message and conclusions had to be clear and simple, unclouded by any nuance or uncertainty.
“And so we have the RCOG once again cherry picking experts guaranteed to deliver convenient conclusions, and then selectively reporting them to a gullible media and public, in order to justify its historic position that babies killed by late abortion do not require pain relief and are by implication, not really sentient human beings worthy of any respect.”
Jim Dobbin, a Labour MP and the chair of the All-Party Pro-Life group, dismissed the report, saying: “Other experts would differ. This does not diminish the case for lowering the limit.”
Mr Dobbin’s pro-life group is currently seeking an MP to table a private members Bill to push for another vote on the abortion limit.
In April a baby boy in Italy was discovered to have survived for two days after a botched abortion at 22 weeks.
Press reports claimed the mother chose to abort the baby after a prenatal scan showed he had a cleft lip and palate.
He was wrapped in a sheet and left to die by staff at the Rossano Calabro hospital in Italy, but the day after the abortion the baby boy, who still had his umbilical cord attached, was discovered moving and breathing by a Roman Catholic priest.
The baby was rushed to another nearby hospital, where he died the following day.