Newly-appointed health minister Ben Gummer has come under fire from pro-abortion groups over his opposition to the practice.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health said in a Guardian interview in 2008 that he is “personally and principally opposed to abortion,” adding: “I think abortion is too high in Britain and that something does need to be done about that. I would vote for a reduction, though I would have to make that decision after reviewing the evidence.”
He added, though, that he did not think it would be “responsible” to ban it outright.
However, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Britain’s largest abortion provider, described Gummer’s appointment as “concerning”, with director of external affairs Clare Murphy saying: “It is concerning that ministers with roles that involve women’s health and equality apparently oppose abortion – their stance does not reflect the view of their electorate.”
She added: “The last parliament sadly saw a number of attempts to introduce fresh restrictions on abortion.”
However, Gummer has refused to reassess his position, telling the Independent: “Change to abortion law has always been a matter for Parliament, not for the Government.
“It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members, not ministers, and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes, as with all matters of conscience.”
Gummer’s boss, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has also faced criticism after revealing his opposition to abortion in 2012 when he said he personally favoured reducing the legal limit for abortions from 24 to 12 weeks.
Despite saying he had no plans to change the law, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists denounced Hunt’s comments as “insulting to women”, with a spokeswoman adding: “That’s an absolute shocker. You will absolutely create mental health problems if you start dragooning women into making decisions before they have to.”