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Reduce UK abortion time limits: Catholic leaders

[JURIST] The Catholic church is pushing the UK government to establish a committee to consider lowering the legal limit on abortions from the current 24 weeks [EFC backgrounder] allowed by the 1967 Abortion Act [BBC Q/A], UK Archbishop Rev. Peter Smith said Wednesday during an interview on the BBC Breakfast program. The proposed committee would involve members of both houses of parliament and would solicit expert testimony on current UK abortion laws. Smith's comments coincide with a Thursday meeting between Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and UK Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt [official profile], where Murphy-O'Connor is expected to request a reduction in the 24-week limit. Smith said that UK public opinion has shifted since the BBC in 2004 published pictures of a 12-week fetus "walking" in the womb, and that recent medical advances make it possible for fetuses to survive birth after 24 weeks in the womb.

A UK Department of Health spokesperson said the government has no plans to adjust the time limits, and Hewitt has previously opposed a change. The government rebuffed previous calls to adjust abortion limits [JURIST reports] in January after the Observer reported that 47 percent of British women feel the legal limit for an abortion should be reduced. The Independent has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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