Friday, July 08, 2011

So will the Government have the courage?

Joanna Jepson, a theological student who later became a Church of England curate, kicked up a fuss a few years ago because a baby was aborted at 28 weeks because of a suspected cleft palate - a condition that can easily be corrected by surgery.

Abortion can be obtained virtually on demand up to 24 weeks - usually because doctors are willing to certify that there is "risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the mother" - but abortions above 24 weeks are legal only - apart from when the mother's life is in danger, which practically never happens - if there is "substantial risk that the baby would be seriously handicapped."

As a result of the fuss, the Department of Health refused thereafter to publish medical grounds on which abortions over 24 weeks were carried out, claiming by way of excuse that small numbers could lead to the people involved being identified.

After a six-year legal battle by the ProLife Alliance, the High Court this year ordered the Department of Health to publish the data by July 4. This week the Department of Health published the information on its website - on July 4, you will notice, and not a day earlier.

The figures do not make pretty reading. Between 2002 and 2010, 1,189 England and Wales residents aborted their babies after 24 weeks; some because of such problems as spina bifida; some because of things like cleft lips or cleft palates; many because of minor deformities which could be corrected by surgery. Between 2002 and 2010 a total of almost 4,000 babies were aborted because of suspected Down's syndrome, 10 of them at over 24 weeks.

So now you know: cleft palates and Down's syndrome are "serious handicaps."

Martin Narey, the UK Government's new adoption czar, has suggested that women with unwanted pregnancies should be offered adoption as an alternative to abortion.

As abortions have risen steadily from 1968 to the present, a Government adoption figures website shows that adoptions in England and Wales have fallen, from 22,502 in 1974 to 4,725 in 2009. Women with unwanted pregnancies would rather kill their unborn baby than hand their baby over for adoption to a couple desperate for a baby to care for.

I remember a young woman I spoke to who had been to an abortion clinic to arrange to kill her unborn baby. I suggested adoption to her as an alternative. "Oh, I couldn't possibly do that," she said. What a selfish society we live in.

"Narey is definitely on to something," writes Peter Saunders. "But will the government have the courage to do anything about it? It will be interesting to see the response."