Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Women’s minister calls for reduction in abortion limit to 20 weeks

The government’s new women’s minister has called for a reduction in the legal time limit for abortions to reflect changes in medical science.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 4 October

Women’s minister calls for reduction in abortion limit to 20 weeks

The government’s new women’s minister has called for a reduction in the legal time limit for abortions to reflect changes in medical science.

Conservative MP Maria Miller, the newly appointed Culture Secretary who is also in-charge of women’s issues and equality, said many premature babies now survive after birth – even when they are born before 24 weeks, the current limit for terminations.

Ms Miller, who voted to reduce the legal limit to 20 weeks in 2008, told The Daily Telegraph it was “common sense” to reform the abortion law.

“You have got to look at these matters in a very common sense way. I looked at it from the really important stance of the impact on women and children.

“What we are trying to do here is not to put obstacles in people’s way but to reflect the way medical science has moved on.”

Ms Miller described herself as a “very modern feminist”, in an echo of similar comments made by fellow Tory and abortion campaigner Nadine Dorries. Ms Dorries’ made a bid last year to prevent abortion providers such as Marie Stopes carrying out counselling and to replace them with independent organisations not linked to abortion clinics.

Ms Dorries welcomed Ms Miller’s stance and tweeted: “Maria Miller understands importance of recognising some women are traumatised by abortion process, that’s real feminism.”

While the Department of Health said last night that it had no plans to review the abortion laws, the MP’s remarks have sparked concern among pro-choice campaigners who are already worried about the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary. Mr Hunt has previously voted to reduce the abortion limit.

Darinka Aleksic of Abortion Rights said: “The fact that the minister responsible for women and equalities wants to restrict access to abortion, one of the most important women’s health services, is really alarming.

“Her appointment, alongside Jeremy Hunt at the Department of Health, who would like to see abortion severely restricted, does nothing to inspire confidence in the government's commitment to women’s right to choose.”

Questions for discussion

  • What does the word feminist make you think of?
  • Can anyone be a feminist?
  • Abortion is a very sensitive political topic. Why do you think this is?
  • Who should be in charge of changing laws governing health? Should the power lie with MPs?

Related resources


  • An excellent resource full of information and food for thought for pupils to help them consider abortion and its impact.

When does life begin?

  • Worksheet looking at the different stages of a foetus' development from conception to birth. Includes reflection on when pupils think life begins and when abortion should be allowed.

BBC Class Clips: Is abortion ever necessary?

  • This video features a group of young people in an informal discussion with a clergyman on whether abortion is ever justified.

Women’s Rights: Obstacles and Opportunities

  • A lesson plan which aims to uncover and to understand some of the some of the issues surrounding women’s rights in the US.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

Ikea has said it regrets deleting images of women from its catalogue in Saudi Arabia.

A Channel 4 programme about the effects of recreational drugs has been criticised for claiming to feature “ground-breaking research” on the subject.

Pupils are no better at aspects of basic maths today than they were in the 1970s, despite rising exam results, a major new study published this week by King’s College London has found.

Teachers in Kenya, East Africa, are returning to the classroom today following a three-week strike that forced school closures across the country.

In the news archive index