The new Health Secretary has said he would back a reduction in the legal limit for abortion to 12 weeks.
Currently abortions carried out after 24 weeks are illegal unless the baby is disabled or the mother’s life is at risk.
Jeremy Hunt previously voted in favour of a reduction to 12 weeks, and he has reaffirmed his personal view on the matter.
He said the moment we should deem life to start is an “incredibly difficult question” but his own view is that “12 weeks is the right point for it.”
But in response, Prime Minister David Cameron made clear he disagreed with reducing the limit to 12 weeks and said the Government has no plans to change the law on abortion.
Speaking during a visit to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, Mr Cameron said he personally favoured a “modest reduction” from the current limit of 24 weeks.
He said Mr Hunt’s view was his personal opinion and not Government policy – any vote on the issue would be a matter of conscience.
Jeremy Hunt insisted that his opinion is not based on religious reasons. He said: “There are some issues that cut across health and morality.”
Mr Hunt’s comments, made in The Times, come as women’s minister Maria Miller expressed support for lowering the legal limit for abortion to 20 weeks.
Home Secretary Theresa May has since voiced her agreement with Maria Miller.
Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, pointed out that 13 out of the 16 Conservative MPs in cabinet voted for a decrease in the abortion upper limit in 2008.
He said on his blog Christian Medical Comment, “It seems as though this debate is still very much alive”.
Last year nearly 190,000 abortions were carried out for residents in England and Wales, 9% of which took place after the 12 week of pregnancy.
In his interview for The Times, Jeremy Hunt also made clear the Government’s intention not to change the law on assisted suicide.
He said: “My concern is the unintended consequences of legalising assisted suicide. Some older people may worry that they are a burden on their families and start to think they should consider a way out.”