A key backer of Jeremy Hunt says she is sure there will be no change to abortion law if he is the next PM – despite his personal views.
Mr Hunt told Sky News he was in favour of reducing the legal time limit for an abortion from 24 weeks to 12.
But the Tory leadership contender said it was only his “personal view”.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she felt “very strongly” about the issue, but he had reassured her “there will be no change to abortion law”.
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said the foreign secretary’s view was “incredibly alarming”, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the leadership contest as a “horror show”, which included “attacks on abortion rights”.
Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt is one of 11 candidates in the race to be Tory leader and next prime minister – nominations for the contest close at 17:00 BST.
Ms Rudd – who revealed on Monday that she was backing the foreign secretary in the leadership contest – told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a reduction in the legal time limit had “always been his view”.
She added: “I have spoken to Jeremy and there will no change to abortion law if and when he becomes prime minister.
“I feel very strongly about this. We need to make sure that, as a government, we always protect women’s rights to choose.”
‘Matters of conscience’
Mr Hunt had previously said he was in favour of reducing the legal time limit from 24 weeks to 12.
Asked about it on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, he said: “These are matters of conscience. Yes, my view hasn’t changed on that.
“I respect the fact other people have very different views and that’s why these matters are matters for free votes in the House of Commons.”
Asked whether he would seek to change the current abortion law if he was PM, Mr Hunt said “it won’t be government policy to change the law” or to have a vote on it.