The new health minister Jeremy Hunt has spoken out in support of a reduction to the legal time-limit on abortions on the eve of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, which started yesterday.
In an interview with The Times, Mr Hunt said that after reviewing the evidence he felt that a reduction to 12 weeks from the current 24-week legal-limit would be justified.
Mr Hunt's views are supported by women's minister Maria Miller, who supports a 20-week limit.
Last year there were 190,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales, 91% of which were conducted in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Current abortion law
The law on abortions in England, Wales and Scotland is included in the Abortion Act 1967 (amended by subsequent statutes, notably the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990). Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless to save the life of the mother.
The law states that abortions are legal up to 24 weeks and after this time only if necessary to save the life of the mother, if a severe abnormality is detected or there is a grave risk of physical or mental injury to the mother. Only 147 abortions were carried out after 24 weeks in 2010, representing less than 0.1% of the total number.
The law states that an abortion can only be carried out with the opinion of two registered medical practitioners unless it is urgently required to save life or prevent grave injury. The case of the Royal College of Nursing v DHSS  2 WLR 279 determined that nurses could perform abortions within the terms of the Abortion Act 1967.
Abortions conducted outside of NHS or NHS-approved premises by non-medical practitioners are illegal under ss.58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
The proposal to adjust the law has prompted the Prime Minister to state that there are not any current plans to legislate, although he admitted that he would support a modest reduction in the limit if such a vote were to take place.
"Parliament does vote from time to time about these issues. My own view is that a modest reduction from 24 weeks would be right and I would vote for that. I voted against 12 weeks," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday.
However, the comments of Mr Hunt have angered women's rights groups who believe that they show he has a lack of understanding of the issues around abortion.
Professor Wendy Savage is a gynaecologist who campaigns for women's rights.
"It does not bode well that he's the secretary of state for health. What we really should be doing is decriminalising abortion," she said.
Meanwhile the Scottish Health Minister Alex Neil has also joined the debate by confirming that he too would back a change in the law to reduce the 24-week limit, although he added that a reduction to 12 weeks was probably unrealistic.
"I do think there is a case to be had for a reduction from 24 weeks ... given the state of medical science and the fact that babies do survive from a much earlier stage in the pregnancy," he said.