Government rejects cutting abortion time limit

 MPs last night voted to reject cutting the time limit for abortion in four amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. A bid to cut the upper limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 12 weeks was defeated by 393 votes to 71. A further attempt to get the limit down to 16 weeks was defeated by 387 votes to 84. The proposal to lower the limit to 20 weeks was defeated by 332 votes to 190. A move to bring in a 22 week limit was opposed by 304 votes to 233. The upper gestational limit for abortions was set by Parliament in 1990 at 24 weeks because the scientific evidence of the time was that the threshold of viability had increased and babies were increasingly surviving at 24 weeks and above. Campaigners arguing for the reduction in the time limit this time argued that medical advances had made it more likely that some babies born even earlier than 24 weeks could survive. David Jones, a professor of bio-ethics, said research on the survival rates for extremely premature babies was "disputed". Tory MP Nadine Dorries, an ex-nurse, who proposed the 20-week limit, said she was not anti-abortion, but said she believed the right of a woman to choose had its limits. She reached this decision after seeing the 'botched' abortion of a baby boy when she was a gynaecological nurse. She said: "I believe a baby has rights. Those rights kick in if that baby were born it would have a chance of life and if it feels pain as part of the abortion," she said.

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