Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Government fails in bid to keep statistics on late abortions secret

The Government has failed in a High Court bid to keep secret information on late abortions which it claimed might lead to the identification of individual women involved.

A judge today upheld the Information Tribunal's earlier decision to disclose 'sensitive' data from national statistics to the ProLife Alliance. The judge also put a stay on any of the data being released to give the DoH time to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

One result of the decision, if not overturned, will be that the Department of Health will be required to make public details about the number of late abortions carried out for various congenital abonormalities. Up until now it has refused to publish the number of abortions in any category where there were less than ten performed.

Abortion can currently only be carried out on able-bodied babies up to 24 weeks gestation, the generally accepted lowest age at which babies can now survive with good neonatal care.

However disabled babies can be aborted right up until the time of birth (40 weeks) on grounds that there is a 'substantial risk' that the baby would be 'seriously handicapped'. But the words 'substantial' and 'serious' are interpreted liberally.

Each year about 120 babies are aborted above 24 weeks on these grounds including some over 35 weeks.

The DoH initially began withholding abortion statistics in 2002 after it was revealed that a baby of 26 weeks had been aborted for cleft palate, a surgically correctible condition.

But this ruling will mean that information about the conditions for which late abortions are carried out, and the gestation at which they are performed, will be have to be made available to the public, whilst still making it virtually impossible to identify individual women.

The result should be more transparency about late abortion, with better scrutiny and accountability surrounding the whole process.

Outside the High Court on Wednesday, Josephine Quintavalle of the ProLife Alliance said:

'The resistance of the Department of Health is extraordinary. This is a great victory for freedom of information and accountability and most importantly for the rights of the disabled unborn child.'

'There is no proper mechanism for the scrutiny of abortion provision other than the meagre information provided by statistics, and these were far more detailed in 2001 than they are today, particularly in relationship to late abortions.'

If the Department of Health has nothing to hide it should have nothing to fear from this judgement.

But I suspect that the reason they have fought against this so avidly for so many years is that they know only too well that if this information were to come into the public domain serious questions would be asked about current abortion practice.

Questions are already being asked about why so much taxpayers' money has been spent fighting court battles aimed at keeping this information secret when it could have been used to provide better care and treatment for babies born with disabilities.

This judgement is a victory for truth and justice and the ProLife Alliance are to be congratulated for their patience and perseverance in pursuing the case against such powerful opposition.


  1. If this information gets out, then won't the doctors that perform the procedure be named? In this case there are two major reasons why they might want to hide the details; one because they fear for the doctors' safety (a la America); or two because there will be a good number of doctors prosecuted for illegal abortions. Something tells me it's not just the former...

  2. I feel sick that these women are aborting fetuses that are so mature, fetuses that are practically 'little babies'. I am desperate for children and would love to hold a happy little baby in my arms, if only God would bless me with children. Everytime I read about an abortion I am sick to my stomach. How can these people bring themselves to kill their own children? Why don't they give them up for adoption instead? There are not enough babies left to adopt in our country because they are all being killed in the womb. If you don't wish to get pregnant, take precautions, or else don't have sex. Don't get pregnant and then kill the innocent child in order to 'escape' from the pregnancy. That is just shameful. Everytime you kill your unborn child, think of those like me and my husband who are struggling to conceive and would do anything to change places with you. Life is so cruel isn't it? Those who don't want children appear to get 'burdened' with unwanted pregancies which they then destroy in the twinkling of an eye, without a second thought, and without the slightest remorse - while those who desperately desire the little darlings have to struggle for years and years 'trying', while putting up with the taunts and jibes of the 'fertile'. Cruel.


  3. Lucinda,

    Please don't misunderstand me, I am just as opposed to abortion as you are and feel for your situation. But please bear in mind that a woman who agrees to a late abortion for disability may be under tremendous pressure to do so.

    I am aware of cases where the woman (or couple) is told that it is the better option for her unborn child as the trauma of birth would be unbearable for a baby with the given condition. I understand that such advice is extremely suspect but may well be provided in good faith by a health care professional who is unaware of this and is trusted.

    Without access to very strong counter-guidance and information I think you can see it might be very hard for most women to resist this argument. So please do not judge such women too harshly.


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