British Investigation of Late-Term Abortions for Cleft Palates Concludes

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 26, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Investigation ofLate-Term Abortions for Cleft Palates Concludes Email this article
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by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
September 26, 2004

London, England ( — A police investigation into a late-term abortion performed because the unborn child had a cleft lip has been concluded. The investigation was the result of a complaint by a religious official who challenged local police for not enforcing Britain’s law requiring late-term abortions to be performed only if the child is seriously handicapped.

The Rev. Joanna Jepson of St. Michael’s Church in Chester, who had a congenital jaw defect surgically repaired in her late teens, said that such a defect is in no way a "serious handicap."

According to Detective Superintendent Ray Groves, who headed the investigation following the judicial review in April 2004, the investigation was "comprehensive."

"We have approached this investigation with an open mind and interviewed all people associated with the case," said Groves. "A file of evidence has now been completed and delivered to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will advise us on what further inquiries, if any, need to made or what charges, if any, should be brought."

Groves would not comment further, stating that CPS must make its decision first.

During court proceedings earlier this year, Jepson compared the disrespect she received growing up with a facial deformity to the unborn who are not given a chance at life because of it.

"My teenage years were difficult due to facial abnormality," Jepson said after her suit was approved last year. "I also have a brother with Down’s syndrome. We both live positive and fulfilling lives.

"I think the first point is that right from the beginning, a cleft palate cannot be reasonable grounds for a late abortion," Jepson added.

"I understand more than most how much importance today’s society places on appearance," said Jepson. "I had to deal with bullies because the doctors couldn’t do anything until my bones stopped growing. When I was 19 they broke the lower part of my face and reset it.

"The reconstruction made such a difference to the way people treated me," Jepson said. "I think we have to challenge the bullies."

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), cleft palate reconstructive surgery has been performed since the early 1900s. Today, it is one of many routine surgeries, and pales in comparison to some of the more complex facial reconstruction cases that modern surgeons encounter.

A cleft palate occurs approximately once every 700 births, according to, a website that provides symptom descriptions, treatment options and statistics for 1,200 diseases and conditions.

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

Jepson’s church is part of the Church of England.