In Depth

What Jeremy Hunt said on abortion

Tory leadership contender under fire after revealing ‘personal view’ on legal time limit for termination

Jeremy Hunt is facing criticism over his views on abortion as he officially launches his Conservative leadership campaign today.

The foreign secretary, one of 11 candidates vying to become prime minister, yesterday reiterated that he was in favour of reducing the legal time limit for terminations from the current 24 weeks to 12 weeks.

But following an outcry from fellow MPs, he insisted that he was merely voicing a “personal view” and that he has no plans to change the law if he replaces Theresa May.

What did he actually say?

During an interview on Sunday, Sky News’ Sophy Ridge asked Hunt if he still believed the legal time limit for abortion should be cut in half, a stance he had taken in a 2008 Commons vote and repeated in a Sunday Times interview in 2012.

He replied: “My view hasn’t changed on that and I respect the fact that other people have very different views.

“That’s why these matters are always matters for free votes in the House of Commons and when they come up people vote with their conscience.”

Hunt said it would not be government policy to change the law in that respect if he became PM, and confirmed to BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg today: “No government I lead will ever seek to change the law on abortion.”

And the reaction?

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine described his view on abortion as “incredibly alarming”, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the leadership contest was turning into a “horror show”, with “attacks on abortion rights”. Former minister Nick Boles, who quit the Conservative Party in March, and Labour’s Jess Phillips also weighed in.  

However, Hunt has won the backing of Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, while Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she had been “reassured” that he would not change the current laws on abortion if he lands the top job.

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