British Church Official Agrees to Delay Abortion-Cleft Palate Lawsuit

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Church Official Agrees to Delay Abortion-Cleft Palate Lawsuit

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
May 12, 2004

London, England ( — A British cleric is hoping justice delayed isn’t justice denied in the case of a baby who was aborted late-term because of a cleft lip and palate.

Joanna Jepson, a curate with the Church of England, has agreed to a police request to postpone her High Court action in connection with the high-profile abortion case.

A judicial review, which was scheduled to start May 24, has been delayed indefinitely because of pressure from West Mercia Police, who have re-opened a criminal investigation stemming from the allegations.

Jepson, who was born with a congenital jaw defect and has a brother with Down’s Syndrome, told the British press, "I have had to agree to this because there is case law to say that the judicial review could not go ahead while an investigation is in process. At this stage, we feel it is necessary to cooperate. It is frustrating, but I hope this way means the issue is not going to be fudged by another investigation."

Meanwhile, pro-life organizations also say the delay is frustrating because it will mean abortion practitioners are free to carry out eugenic practices, performing late-term abortions on babies with slight impairments.

The Jepson case revolves around a 28-week-old unborn baby with a bilateral cleft lip and palate who was aborted specifically because of the facial abnormality.

Michael Cohn performed the abortion in December 2001 — four weeks after the legal limit for aborting an unborn child without a "serious handicap."

Last December, Jepson won the right to challenge the police’s failure to investigate the late abortion.

"It is my undying hope that the police not only take into account the surviving individuals involved in the case, but also the one whose life was taken away," Jepson told the British press.

Jepson initially called for a police inquiry in September, 2002. West Mercia did not take action, but decided to re-open the case in April following the announcement of a judicial review.

Julia Millington, political director of the ProLife Alliance, told the British press, "There are bigger issues at stake than this individual case, specifically concerning late abortions for disability. We take the view that this is a eugenic practice and we want the review to continue as soon as possible. We would ask the court to clarify the legal definition of ‘serious handicap.’ We hope the court will be able to hear the evidence regardless of the result of the criminal investigation."

Meanwhile, Jepson has vowed to keep on fighting for the lives of babies who are considered less than perfect by some members of the medical community.

"This case has highlighted a grave injustice against babies deemed unfit to live because of an impairment," Jepson told a British newspaper. "We therefore look forward to the judicial review as this is essential to a wider redress of this discrimination in our society."

Medical experts say operations to repair cleft palates are now considered routine. While Jepson admits that it was difficult growing up with a facial abnormality, she insists that such a handicap is no reason to deny life to a child. Jepson’s jaw problem was surgically corrected when she was a teenager.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Hereford have both expressed support for Jepson’s lawsuit. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, told her privately she has his "full backing" in her campaign to stop abortions for "trivial reasons."

Related web sites:
ProLife Alliance –