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Bid to reduce abortion limit fails

The upper time-limit for abortions has been left at 24 weeks after attempts to cut it to 22 weeks failed in a Commons vote.

The votes came after two highly-charged days' debate by MPs on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - the biggest shake-up of fertility law for nearly 20 years.

Before the vote on a 22-week limit, which was defeated by a majority of just 71, MPs first threw out a call to cut the limit to 12 weeks by a massive 322-vote majority.

A move to cut it to 16 weeks fared little better - falling by 387 votes to 84 - and even an attempt to reduce the limit to 20 weeks was decisively defeated by 332 to 190.

Earlier, the government beat off another challenge to the legislation when MPs rejected a cross-party move for doctors to consider the need for a father in offering fertility treatment. Under the present Bill, IVF clinics would only have to take account of the need for "supportive parenting".

Tory former minister Edward Leigh, who led the call for a cut in the time limit to 12 weeks, said public opinion had shifted in favour of a reduction and the UK was now "out-of-step" with many other countries.

Copyright © PA Business 2008

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

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