British Government Loses Bid to Withhold Late Abortion Stats

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 20, 2011   |   3:13PM   |   London, England

The British government has lost its initial bid at the High Court to cover up the frequent reports the national health department typically puts out about abortions, including abortions done late in pregnancy.

The government filed a lawsuit with the High Court to keep secret the details concerning late abortions because of fears that individual women having abortions late in pregnancy will somehow be revealed. The Department of Health challenged a decision the Information Tribunal handed down in October 2009 saying freedom of information laws require all of the abortion statistics to be released — and none of them contain any information to identify any people specifically.

The ProLife Alliance made the request six years ago for the abortion statistics to be made public because it was concerned rules on abortions were not being followed in order to allow for abortions on babies with minor medical issues like a cleft palate or club foot, that can easily be corrected with surgery.

However, a BBC report today indicates the health department lost its bid and is considering whether to appeal, saying, “The Department will now consider the implications of this judgment and the options available.”

Josephine Quintavalle of the ProLife Alliance responded to the potential appeal and told the BBC “The resistance of the Department of Health is extraordinary.”

Dr Evan Harris, an abortion advocate who is a member of the British Medical Association medical ethics committee, sided with pro-life campaigner and said  it was “hard to see why successive governments” had fought the Information Tribunal decision.

“Patient confidentiality is paramount but there is no lawful way for patient identities to be made public merely by the occasional publication of late-stage abortion statistics, aggregated nationally,” he told the BBC. “There should be nothing to hide as late-stage abortions are rare and carefully considered.”

During a hearing, James Eadie appeared before the court for the Department of Health and asked for the decision to be overturned and argued there is sufficient abortion data in the public domain to allow for a public debate on abortion.

“There is no sensible case that publication of statistics carrying any risk of identification is warranted,” he said.

But a representative of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) told LifeNews today that the government is wrong to try to cover-up abortion statistics.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC’s communications manager, commented: “We are very concerned by any attempt at secrecy by the government regarding abortion. It is absolutely vital for the future protection of both unborn children and women that there is complete transparency in official statistics. Secrecy will only serve those doctors authorizing or performing abortions outside the terms of the law, which is already a widespread practice.”

“The fact that the case relates to statistics on the severity of disabilities among aborted unborn children is not strictly relevant to the moral issue. All unborn children, whatever their physical or mental state, have an equal right to life, confirmed by international human rights law,” he said. “So we should not be asking whether cleft palate is a more or less severe disability, but why the government wants to cover up the facts about which babies it is aborting and why.”

“The argument for transparency is all the stronger because nearly all abortions for disability are paid for by the taxpayer, and unlike most NHS procedures, they are not done to achieve any health benefit, but to cut the cost of caring for disabled people,” Ozimic concluded.