Minister Vows To Fight On To Clarify Law On Cleft Lip-Related
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 23, 2005
CHESTER, ENGLAND--Last week, prosecutors decided not to take legal action against two doctors who had performed a late-term abortion in 2001 on a fetus because it had a cleft lip and palate.
Jim England, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for West Mercia, said the doctors acted "in good faith" that it was likely the child would have a significant disability.
Under current British law, late-term abortions -- those taking place after the 24th week of pregnancy -- can be performed legally if two doctors agree the fetus has "a substantial risk" of having a "serious handicap".
Joanna Jepson, a minister in the Church of England, filed the original complaint in 2003 against the two unnamed doctors claiming that a cleft lip and palate is not a "serious handicap" under the law. She took the action, she said, to bring the issue of eugenic abortion into the public spotlight and to get the courts to clarify how such a disability is defined under the law.
"While I'm disappointed about the CPS's decision to drop the case, I am pleased the case has raised the issue of late-term abortion and the plight of disabled babies in late-term pregnancy," she told the Guardian. "It has exposed grave discrimination and I will be seeking legal advice."
The case is very personal for Reverend Jepson, 28, who underwent corrective surgery on her own jaw 11 years ago. Additionally, Jepson's 26-year-old brother, Alistair, has Down syndrome.
"The law is the only protection that disabled unborn babies such as Alistair have in their third trimester in the womb," she wrote in an opinion piece for Sunday's Telegraph. "As such, we need to spend some time getting it right."
Inclusion Daily Express reported in June of last year that in 2002 there were more abortions performed on fetuses with Down syndrome in England and Wales than there were live births of such babies.
Data from Britain's National Congenital Anomaly System also showed that the number of abortions carried out because of "chromosomal abnormalities" in 2002 increased 17 percent from the previous year. One pregnancy was terminated that year because of cleft lip and palate, five were ended because of "deformities of feet", and three others were aborted because of "limb reductions".
"Cleft lip abortion done 'in good faith" (The Guardian)
"Murder, even 'in good faith', is still murder By Joanna Jepson" (The Telegraph)