British Police Won’t Prosecute Cleft Palate Abortion, Pro-Life Groups Upset

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 17, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Police Won’t Prosecute Cleft Palate Abortion, Pro-Life Groups Upset Email this article
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by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
March 17, 2005

London, England ( — Pro-life groups in Great Britain are denouncing a decision not to prosecute two doctors involved in the late abortion of a child with a cleft palate.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is seeking legal advice on challenging the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision under the Human Rights Act.

John Smeaton, SPUC’s national director, stated: "Abortion of a baby on the grounds that the child has a cleft palate is lethal discrimination against disabled people, as is any abortion on grounds of disability. We are taking legal advice on this matter. On the face of it, the appropriate legislation under which to take action would be the Human Rights Act, and we are exploring this further."

And the political director of the Pro-Life Alliance, Julia Millington, told the British press, “We are alarmed by the reasons given by the CPS but, with the eugenic mentality of medicine in the UK, it is perhaps not surprising that two doctors would determine that the best destiny for a seven month baby with a cleft palate is to be killed."

Millington added, "This typifies current attitudes to pre-natal disability whether in the test tube or the womb. The police have expressed concern regarding the impact on the life of the mother. We would like to have seen some concern over the lethal impact this abortion has had on the life of the baby."

Meanwhile, pro-abortion advocates are defending the government’s decision not to prosecute.

“It is very clear that in this particular issue there was a case of severe disability and the doctors were acting legally," Abortion Rights director Anne Quesney told the British press.

Quesney added, “It’s never helpful, neither for women nor doctors, that these issues get dragged into the political arena."

The police reopened an inquiry into the case following a judicial review sought by the Reverend Joanna Jepson, who grew up with a facial deformity and has a brother with Down’s Syndrome.

Jepson’s lawyers argued that the abortion could not be justified under Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act.

But Jim England, the chief crown prosecutor for West Mercia CPS, said the doctors involved had decided there was a “substantial risk" that the baby would be “seriously handicapped" if it were born.

England told the British press, “This complaint has been investigated most thoroughly by the police and the CPS has considered a great deal of evidence before reaching its decision."

The CPS concluded that there was “no offense committed in the circumstances of this case," according to England.

England added, “In these circumstances I decided there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that there should be no charges against either of the doctors."

But Jepson stated last year that she had good reason to ask for prosecution in the case.

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

Society for the Protection of Unborn Children –