Today, a baby with club foot or cleft palate can and is aborted up to the point of birth in England. The law permits an abortion to take place “up to birth” if tests indicate that the child may be disabled when born, while there is a legal limit of 24 weeks for abortions on other grounds.
Jane Ellison, the public health minister, says the British parliament has not adequately defined the term “serious handicap” in its abortion laws, which has led to a loophole by which babies with very minor disabilities can be aborted after the 24-week legal limit.
As a result, abortion on babies with very minor and correctable problems like cleft lips are increasing. In fact, new figures show the number of babies with cleft palates who are victimized by abortions has tripled. Official figures show the number has drastically risen in the past five years, as British media report:
A growing number of terminations are carried out due to a cleft palate or lip – a condition which causes a gap in the roof of the mouth, upper lip or both, but is usually easily fixed by surgery.
It is thought that increased access to tests that diagnose the condition in the womb are behind a rise in the number of parents choosing to end pregnancies.
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But campaigners warn that abortions on such grounds are ‘unconscionable’ and claim that lives are being ended on the basis of appearance.
Tory MP Fiona Bruce, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said: ‘It is deeply disturbing if these figures reflect a worrying trend in society to disproportionately value the physically perfect and beautiful.’
New government figures show 30 babies were aborted in the past three years because they had a cleft lip or palate.
Just four abortions were carried out for this reason in 2011 and in 2012. This figure jumped to nine in 2013, ten in 2014 and 11 last year, according to statistics released by the Department of Health.
Church of England curate, the Reverend Joanna Jepson, who was born with a jaw deformity, said: ‘That this kind of discrimination is on the rise shows just how far we are from being the humane and tolerant society we claim to be.’
Ms Jepson rose to prominence by speaking out against abortions when babies have a cleft palate after a case in 2003 where a baby with one was terminated at 28 weeks. She called for the doctor responsible to be prosecuted.