Welcome to Illinois

UK Government resists order to release data on late abortions

Posted in Attitudes to disability, Termination by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on December 12, 2008

The Telegraph, among others, reported last week that the UK Department of Health is resisting an order by the Information Commissioner to release data on abortions performed beyond 24 weeks on the grounds of disability.

According to the report, the DoH is resisting on the grounds that revealing the figures could lead to the identification of individuals – both patients and doctors – involved.

The Telegraph states:

“Health chiefs stopped publishing full abortion data three years ago after a public outcry over the termination of a foetus with a cleft palate at 28 weeks’ gestation. The legality of this late abortion, carried out in 2001, was challenged by a Church of England curate, Joanna Jepson, who was born with a congenital jaw defect.

In 2005 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring any charges against the NHS consultant, who publicly confirmed that he carried out the procedure, and another doctor.

Ministers were sufficiently worried by the prospect of further complaints – which they argued would invade the privacy of doctors carrying out terminations and women having abortions – to strictly limit the publication of the figures.

From 2005, official abortion statistics were “suppressed” if fewer than 10 cases were carried out. This in effect meant that abortion details on babies with club feet, webbed fingers and toes, or cleft lips and palates, disappeared from public view.

The last year for which data were fully available, 2002, showed that five foetuses were aborted because they had deformed feet, and a sixth because of a cleft lip and palate. In 2000 and 2001, nine foetuses were aborted because of cleft lip and palate, while a further two were aborted for cleft lip alone.”

Information about the number of late abortions carried out on the grounds of disability was apparently requested by the Pro-Life Alliance using the Freedom of Information Act.

The DoH’s appeal against the commissioner’s decision (PDF) will now be heard by the Information Tribunal.


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