Jeremy Hunt – Show me the evidence!

Him again. Sorry.

THIS BLOGPOST CONTAINS UPDATES WHICH FOLLOW THE ORIGINAL POST & A FOLLOW UP POST HERE.


Jeremy Hunt, Weymouth, 11 June 2010

The emperor reveals his evidence?

Jeremy Hunt MP, the current health secretary, has recently said that he would back a call for the legal limit for abortion to be cut from 24 weeks to 12 weeks – he also states that his decision to do this is evidence-based.

I don’t claim to have a particularly comprehensive knowledge of the medical/scientific evidence surrounding the time during pregnancy beyond which abortion is not safe/feasible/practical, but I have never seen any evidence that claims to back a 12 week limit. Certainly, it is clear in the 2006-7 parliament report into scientific developments relating to abortion[PDF] that no evidence appears to have been presented that supports a 12 week limit. Perhaps there is some new evidence I have not seen?

I would be very interested indeed to see the evidence upon which Jeremy Hunt has based his decision. So interested, in fact, that I have submitted a freedom of information request to the department of health so that I might see this evidence. Without this evidence I cannot possibly make an informed decision on this matter, so it is imperative that the evidence be made available for everyone to read for themselves.

I would also echo calls made on twitter that “There should be a legal requirement, any time an MP says their view is backed by evidence, they must publish said evidence.”

The department of health have until the 2nd of November 2012 to reply to my FOI request. Any and all responses I get will be blogged.


EDIT – 19/10/2012
Today Jeremy Hunt appeared on the Radio 4 Today program. He was asked by Justin Webb about where he got the evidence for his stance on reducing the legal limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, and on his views on the efficacy (or otherwise) of homeopathy. Hunt does a superb answer of answering almost any other question he can think of. He was pointedly asked what his evidence was, and where he got it from. He did not answer the question. You can listen to a clip of the interview here. As of today, I have had an acknowledgement from the DoH about my FOI request, but nothing further. They have until the 02/11/2012 to reply.


3 Responses to Jeremy Hunt – Show me the evidence!

  1. Andrew Evans says:

    What Hunt actually said, according to the New Statesman at least, was: “I’m not someone who thinks that abortion should be made illegal. Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when that moment is and my own view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it.”

    He DIDN’T say what your post implies; that he thinks abortion should be illegal from 12 weeks because that’s when a foetus becomes independently viable or what the post states explicitly – that he thinks there is some cut off point at which it becomes not “safe/feasible/practical.”

    The New Statesman doesn’t actually report what inference Hunt draws from the evidence about abortion and the unborn which means he reaches the conclusions he does. This is perhaps not surprisingly since the article, like all those you cite is hostile to his view – maybe not a representative sample?!

    I suspect Hunt means that, having looked at developmental evidence for foetuses, he has concluded that a foetus is sufficiently ‘human’ to be accorded some protection as a person from 12 weeks. Since almost all abortion law discussion is, in the end, about the point at which a foetus constitutes a human ‘person’ who ought to be afforded legal protection Hunt’s is a mainstream and perfectly reasonable contribution to the debate, not anything weird, off the wall or anti-science.

    I also think Hunt is wrong as there’s no identifiable moment between conception and birth (or indeed after birth) when some step change kicks in that could be considered to make the foetus constitute a person when it doesn’t before.

    Which leave us with the uncomfortable conclusion that there’s no scientific reason not to assign legal personhood from the moment of conception. This is particularly the case since the main proposed alternative (“viability”) is a very relative concept – relative to technology, our willingness to spend money etc.

    That, of course, doesn’t speak to the issue of whether abortion of legal persons should be banned – but it would frame the debate in rather different (and, in my view, more accurate) terms.

    • xtaldave says:

      Hi Andrew, thanks for commenting.

      He DIDN’T say what your post implies” — I am sorry if you assumed that this is what my post implies, but you are dead wrong. This policy areas that this post covers could be about anything – it just happens to be about the legal limit for abortion. It could be about Defence policy, foreign policy, economic policy. The subject matter doesn’t really matter.

      This post can be summed up as follows: if a politician states or implies that a policy-decision is evidence-based, then they should absolutely be compelled to publish the evidence the used to reach their conclusions.

      I suspect Hunt means that, having looked at developmental evidence for foetuses, he has concluded that a foetus is sufficiently ‘human’ to be accorded some protection as a person from 12 weeks.” — you might well be correct, or you might have made an unwarranted assumption about how Hunt reached his decision.
      I am not making assumptions about how Hunt reached his decisions, I am simply asking for the evidence he used to reach them.

      As for the citations, they are merely a cross-section of the news articles related to this post, chosen automatically by wordpress. The only one I added by hand is the 2006-7 HoC report which contains an in-depth analysis of current scientific state and IMO strives to take an impartial view whilst still reaching conclusions.

      “Hunt’s is a mainstream and perfectly reasonable contribution to the debate, not anything weird, off the wall or anti-science.” — I didn’t say that his contribution was anything other than reasonable did I? I didn’t accuse him of being anti-science anywhere did I?

      I also note that you change tack half way though your comment: “I suspect Hunt…” “I also think…” changes to “Which leaves us…”.

      You’re using your own assumptions to then support an assertion that the only conclusion that anyone could possibly come to is that “there’s no scientific reason not to assign legal personhood from the moment of conception.” I haven’t seen any evidence that supports your statement. You haven’t provided any evidence that supports your statement.

      You appear to have fallen into the same trap that Jeremy Hunt has fallen into. Show me the evidence! That’s all I ask.

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