The next Conservative leader’s position on abortion rights in the UK

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With two contenders left in the ring for the Tory leadership contest – Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip Boris Johnson – what is their voting record on abortion rights?

Only last week Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was forced to rule out changes in abortion law if he becomes Prime Minister after he said that he favours reducing the legal time limit from the current 24 weeks to 12.

Back in 2008 the ex-Health Secretary voted to decrease the current abortion time limit to 12 weeks and in 2012, in an interview for The Times, he said: “There’s an incredibly difficult question about the moment we should deem life to start… I’m not someone who thinks that abortion should be made illegal.”

In an interview with journalist Sophy Ridge on Sky News, when asked if his opinion has remained the same, Mr Hunt said his ‘view hasn’t changed’ but explained he would not push for reforms if he wins the Tory leadership contest.

Mr Hunt said: “I respect the fact that other people have very different views and that’s why these matters are matters for free votes in the House of Commons.”

While the Foreign Secretary holds strong views on abortion that he says are not dependant on his faith, Boris Johnson has abstained from each of the 12 votes that have occurred while he has been in office, that include the ‘decriminalisation’ of abortion vote in 2017 and the vote in 2018 to introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up-to 24-weeks in Northern Ireland.

The former London mayor also did not respond to a request for comment from Buzzfeed journalists when asked if he would legislate to extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland – currently the only country within the United Kingdom where terminating a pregnancy is illegal in almost all circumstances and the maximum sentence is life imprisonment under the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

In the UK the 1967 Abortion Act legalised the procedure, making it one of the most progressive at the time. The law was not extended to Northern Ireland where terminating a pregnancy is still only permitted if a woman’s life is in danger or if there is a risk to the mother’s physical of mental health.

Most countries in the European Union allow abortions in the first 12 weeks, with the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands having more extended terms. Some other countries, like Finland and Austria, permit termination of pregnancies in the second trimester if there is a serious risk to the mother’s physical or mental health, and in Denmark women are allowed to for many reasons including socio-economic.

The race between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt is at its final stage now and the choice will be put to a postal ballot to all Tory party members. Results of who will succeed Theresa May will be announced during the week of the July 22nd.


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