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Poll: most Britons want abortion limit reduced to 20 weeks

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A majority of people want far greater restrictions on access to abortions, a new poll has revealed this week.

The results of the survey, carried out last week by ComRes, also found that women are more in favour of tightening British abortion laws than men.

Just one in a hundred of those polled said they would like to see the decriminalisation of abortion to allow the procedure beyond the present upper limit of 24 weeks up to birth.

Yet 60 per cent said they believed the upper limit was already too high and that it should be lowered to at least 20 weeks.

Earlier this year, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn signalled his support for abortion up to birth when he voted for a private member’s Bill introduced by the Labour Hull MP Diana Johnson which sought decriminalisation of abortions.

Labour has also made a manifesto commitment to extend abortion to Northern Ireland, where it is illegal if it wins the General Election on June 8.

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, abortions in the rest of the UK are technically illegal unless two doctors are satisfied that a woman’s mental or physical health is in danger. It is allowed beyond 24 weeks only in cases of severe foetal abnormality.

Robert Flello, who is fighting re-election as Labour candidate for the Stoke-on-Trent South seat, said the survey revealed that the public was resistant to a campaign to scrap the restrictions of the 1967 Abortion Act.

Mr Flello said: “Despite the best efforts of the abortion industry and misinformation about abortion somehow being a person’s right under British law, the British public actually see through all that and do not support the measures that are being aggressively promoted by some politicians.”

He criticised pressure on politicians to support abortion in the wake of the hounding of the Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, an Evangelical Christian who had previously said he believed abortion was wrong.

“Part of the reason I got into politics was to stand up for the most vulnerable and that means also the unborn,” said Mr Flello, a Catholic.

“If a politician feels intimidated into a position contrary to what they know, and the British public also know, to be right then it is a very bad day for British politics.”

Fiona Bruce, who is standing for re-election as Conservative MP for Congleton, Cheshire, said the outcome of the survey showed that calls for decriminalisation of abortion “come from a small, unrepresentative minority group”.

She said: “Pressure groups are seeking greater liberalisation of the law – but this survey shows they are totally at odds with the views of the British people, and especially of British women.

Women want greater support for those with unplanned pregnancies, and better protections for the unborn child, not least because medical advances mean that unborn children now have a better chance of surviving at an earlier stage than ever before.

“Activists are seeking to liberalise abortion law and effectively raise the abortion time limit – but only one per cent of women are in favour of that. Seventy per cent of women want the time limit to be lowered.”

The campaign to decriminalise abortion is being driven by abortion providers like the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

Miss Johnson was assisted in drafting her Bill by Professor Sally Sheldon, a BPAS trustee who has been awarded a grant of £512,000 of public funds to write a “biography” of the 1967 Act as part of the campaign for decriminalisation.

The campaign provoked additional controversy when last year Cathy Warwick, the chair of the BPAS trustees, used her position as chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives to put the college behind the push for abortion up to birth without the permission of members. She has since stepped down from the RCM.

The ComRes poll shows that the public not only has little sympathy for the objectives of the campaign but is also broadly against them.

Almost two thirds (60 per cent) of more than 2,000 men and women interviewed said the upper limit should be lowered to under 20 weeks, with a fifth of respondents (21 per cent) – the largest group – saying it should go down to 12 weeks.

Among the female respondents, the figure rose to almost three quarters (70 per cent) and to a quarter (24 per cent) respectively.

A huge majority (89 per cent) said that counselling should be taken out of the hands of the abortion providers, a figure rising to 93 per cent among women.

Eighty-nine per cent of respondents (and 91 per cent of women) called for a ban on sex-selective abortions, which the campaign to decriminalise abortion seeks to allow.

Almost 80 per cent of those polled were in favour of a mandatory five-day cooling off period when a woman asks for abortion.

About the same proportion were in favour of improved support for pregnancies to continue, and for protections to be introduced to stop pregnant women being coerced into abortions by family, partners, friends and others.

There was also a large majority (65 per cent) who said that parents must consent to abortions if they child is aged 15 years or younger.

Only one in five of those polled were in favour of scrapping the rights of doctors and others to object to performing abortions.

There was also widespread opposition to UK taxpayers’ money being used to fund abortions overseas, with 65 per cent of the population opposed to it, rising to 70 per cent among Tory Party voters.

The poll was commissioned by Where Do They Stand?, a pro-life movement seeking to inform voters of the intentions or record of candidates. The group will launch a website today at

Madeline Page, spokeswoman, said: “This polling suggests that many candidates standing for election are out of touch with where the general public, particularly women, stand on abortion.

“We have launched our website to ensure that anyone can find out exactly where their local candidates stand on the issues of abortion, assisted suicide and embryo research.”