The Government is planning to expand its promotion of abortion services in developing countries, according to the International Development Secretary.
Andrew Mitchell launched a public consultation on the Government’s controversial plans to increase the availability of “family planning” last month.
The consultation, which includes a proposal to promote so-called safe abortions, has faced fierce criticism from opponents.
According to the Department for International Development (DfID) each year there are an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions performed in developing countries.
A statement from the DfID said: “Every year unsafe abortion results in up to 70,000 maternal deaths in developing countries. A further 8 million women and girls need medical treatment. Only 5 million receive it.
“Ensuring abortion services are safe, and that post abortion care is provided, saves lives.”
But Anthony Ozimic, Communications Manager at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “There is absolutely no truth to the claim that increasing access to abortion will prevent the deaths of mothers and newborns.
“Abortion is not healthcare but an attack on life. Abortion doesn’t treat the real reasons why a mother’s life or health may be in danger.”
Mr Mitchell defended the proposal, saying: “I’m not entering the ring at all on whether one should be for or against abortion.
“The focus of my attention is the fact that thousands of women die every year from unsafe abortions. I want to bring that figure down sharply.”
The consultation, entitled Choice for Women – Wanted Pregnancies, Safe Births, closes on 20 October.
It will also cover areas such as family planning, adolescent fertility, antenatal care and skilled care at delivery.
In June it was revealed that millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money would continue to fund international abortions.
Prime Minister David Cameron ordered that the Department for International Development’s budget be protected from any cuts.
But critics attacked such a use of public money, and questioned why money intended for abortions should receive special protection at a time when other budgets are being slashed.