A woman whose life was marred by a facial deformity for 18 years has warned that the 26 babies aborted for cleft lip and palates over the last decade are “lives that should not have been lost”.
Joanna Jepson, who is chaplain at the London College of Fashion, was responding to Government figures revealing the number of babies aborted over disabilities.
The statistics show that some babies were aborted because of treatable conditions such as cleft palate and club foot. Miss Jepson says the “injustice and double standards surrounding abortion need rigorous attention”.
She said it was instances where abortion is legally justified even though the baby is diagnosed with a non-life-threatening condition that calls for our inquiry.
In 2002 she launched a legal action over a police decision not to investigate the abortion of a baby at 28 weeks who had suspected bi-lateral cleft palate.
She was inundated by letters from people, many with cleft palates, clubbed feet, missing digits and other disabilities, and she said: “Their shock was shared by an appalled public. Nobody really knew that abortions were taking place for such reasons.
“Again and again the question was asked by those with disabilities: “Are they saying that there were good reasons to abort me?”
She pointed to the 26 babies who had been aborted for cleft lip and palate in the past nine years, and said one of those had also taken place after the upper legal limit of 24 weeks.
She commented: “This late-term aspect of the abortion debate is uncomfortable territory for the women who have hijacked the ‘right to choose’ debate for so many decades.”
And concluded: “It is not women whose human rights are diminished by hypocrisy, evasion, and conflict – it’s the disabled.”
Abortion is outlawed in Britain after 24 weeks of pregnancy, but is allowed up to the point of birth for babies with a substantial risk of “serious” disability. However babies with treatable conditions including cleft palate and club foot have been aborted under this law.
Last year 189,574 abortions were carried out on women residing in England and Wales. Ten years previously this figure was 175,542.