Pro-lifers have won a court battle with the Government meaning that officials cannot hide the number of babies aborted for treatable disabilities.
The ruling by the Information Tribunal has been hailed as a victory for “transparency”.
In its ruling the Tribunal said that it was satisfied that disclosure would not contravene Data Protection Principles and would not breach existing Abortion Regulations.
It added: “By failing to disclose the disputed information, the Department of Health have breached section 1 of the Freedom Of Information Act”.
A spokesman for the Pro-Life Alliance said: “This is a straightforward judgement which maintains the principles that statistics do not constitute personal data, that abortion is a serious procedure and that transparency is necessary to satisfy legitimate public interest in this controversial medical practice.”
Since 2002 official annual statistics on abortions for treatable conditions such as club foot and cleft palate have been suppressed where they have a value of less than ten.
In that year, five foetuses were aborted because they had deformed feet, and a sixth because of a cleft lip and palate.
The Department of Health (DoH) refused to release up to date figures in response to a Freedom of Information Request from the Pro-Life Alliance, but the Information Commissioner ruled in the Alliance’s favour.
When the DoH subsequently appealed to the Information Tribunal it tried to invoke anti-terrorism laws in order to bar the Alliance from attending the hearing. But it was unsuccesful.
During the hearing DoH lawyers argued that the figures involved “sensitive, personal and private” information.
And they claimed that if the figures were published this could lead to the individual women and doctors involved being identified.
They said such disclosure could trigger “mental distress or harm”.
The Tribunal ruled that it was “very unlikely” that a patient would be identified, and that the likelihood of a doctor being identified from the statistics alone was “so remote that disclosure of the disputed information would not be unwarranted”.
It ordered the DoH to release the statistics for England and Wales within the next month.
The Tribunal heard evidence from Professor Stuart Campbell, the leading obstetrician behind the 3D scan images of babies ‘walking in the womb’.
He has opposed the DoH’s stance from the beginning, saying: “It is a disgraceful situation for this data to be suppressed.
“This is not about whether one agrees with abortion. These statistics used to be published, now they are being withheld.
“Transparency is the essence of medicine. If we don’t have that, all sorts of wrongdoing can go on.”
The DoH says it is considering whether to appeal the verdict.