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Data released on late abortions

5th July 2011

The High Court has ordered the government to publish information regarding the amount of late abortions performed in England and Wales.

foetus1

The group ProLife Alliance, who are opposed to abortion, have been applying pressure to the government to release information about abortions performed after 24 weeks since 2005.

However, the government resisted, saying the low number of women who had the procedures risked giving away identities.

The information released showed that 147 women had late abortions in 2010.

Abortion is legal for "social" reasons in the first six months of pregnancy. The terms of the 1967 Abortion Act indicate that it is legal to abort a foetus right up to full term if there is a danger of the baby having "serious" physical or mental defects.

Until 2003 the Department of Health released details about late abortions, but the publication of data in 2002 caused outrage when information showed one foetus has been aborted because of a cleft palate.

In 2004 journalists revealed the identity of one of the doctors who carried out the abortion and concerns were raised that the patient could also be identified.

The Department of Health decided it would not publish information about abortions when the number carried out because of specific medical conditions was less than 10.

The ProLife Alliance invoked the Freedom of Information Act in 2005 to obtain full data on procedures performed in 2003.

The Department of Health said it would not publish the information and the PLA's request was supported by the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal.

The case went to the High Court and the DH decided it would not carry on with its refusal after a hearing in April did not rule in its favour.

Julia Millington of the ProLife Alliance said: "This is a great victory for transparency and freedom of speech and we are delighted that full information about the justification for late abortions is now being made available in the same detail as it was in 2001."

However Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said: "The publication of these statistics after a campaign by the anti-abortion lobby reveals little more than their own vindictiveness." 

 

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