Court demands release of abortion numbers

The Department of Health has lost a legal battle to keep statistics about late abortions secret.

In a victory for pro-lifers, the High Court upheld an earlier decision by the Information Commissioner to release the data.

Pro-lifers want the numbers to be made public because there may be abuse of laws allowing late abortions for “serious” disability.


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 such as cleft palate or club foot have been aborted late into a pregnancy.

The Department of Health claims publishing the statistics could lead to the identification of the women involved.

But that was rejected by the court. Mr Justice Cranston said an earlier ruling was right to conclude the risk of identification was “extremely remote”.


Outside the High Court 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.

“The ProLife Alliance asked for the relevant information some six years ago. The judgment today went in our favour but there is every indication that the Department of Health will appeal. What is there to hide?”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Department will now consider the implications of this judgment and the options available.”

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