Information Tribunal rules in favour of the ProLife Alliance

Abortion comes out of the shadows …



Yesterday the Information Tribunal ruled in favour of the ProLife Alliance (PLA), upholding the Ruling of the Information Commissioner (IC) against that of the Department of Health (DOH) in the matter of full disclosure of abortion statistics post-24 weeks.


The ProLife Alliance participated as an Additional Party at the hearing, as it was information requested by the PLA which instigated the lengthy legal battle between these two major Government bodies. A formal Freedom of Information application was forwarded to the DOH on 21 February, 2005, and yesterday’s ruling is the resolution of that initial inquiry from nearly 5 years ago.


The Tribunal ruled that disclosure would not contravene the Data Protection Principles and that the DOH was wrong to withhold the disputed information.


‘We are of course delighted with this extremely acute judgment,’ said aa spokesperson speaking on behalf of the PLA. ‘And we look forward to receiving the missing abortion details from 2003 onwards, which the DOH must provide by mid November.


‘The judgment is based principally on a clear analysis of the law, confirming the position taken originally by the IC. Abortions statistics are simply numbers, they do not reveal information which identifies specific individuals, and are not therefore likely to lead to the identification of either patients or doctors, contrary to the arguments put forward by the DOH.


‘It is impossible, however, to ignore the emotional impact of any legal case which deals with abortion, and the DOH played every possible card to raise the temperature in this regard. Three preliminary days in Court were spent as the DOH attempted unsuccessfully to exclude the ProLife Alliance totally from the hearing, arguing that the issues at stake were so sensitive as to warrant maximum secrecy regarding the safety of witnesses and their statements. The Court rejected the arguments of the DOH and the PLA was present during the substantive hearing.


‘Even during the full hearing there was much inflated rhetoric from the DOH and other witnesses, describing the risks posed by pro-life activism worldwide as well as in the UK. The Tribunal was not convinced stating that “there is no evidence before the Tribunal of any UK anti-abortion group campaigning activity which has led to criminal prosecution or civil proceedings.”


‘The Tribunal was, however, convinced that issues surrounding abortion were of genuine public interest, and reiterated that abortion if not performed within the law is liable to criminal sanctions.


‘Most significantly the Tribunal expressed concern that “there did not seem to be a mechanism for rigorous scrutiny of the [abortion referral] forms to ensure compliance with the Act.” (Paras 81-83 Decision Notice)


‘More details of these very important paragraphs in the judgement, exploring the extremely trusting attitude of the DOH to the compilation of abortion forms, as well as the reasons proffered to justify the terminations, can be found on the ProLife website. Basically the DOH sees very little need for any robust control on their part, quite happy just to trust in the doctors.


‘We extend our thanks to everybody who helped in the case and we trust the outcome will be of benefit to all those working in prolife organisations. Shedding more light on the practice and reality of abortion in the United Kingdom is essential if we are ever going to impact significantly on the law and bring about change.


‘We thank everybody who helped in the case including our witnesses the Rt. Hon. Ann Widdecombe, Prof. Stuart Campbell and Dr. Vincent Argent, and congratulate the very able advocacy of the Information Commissioner’s legal team, as well as our own barrister Paul Diamond.’


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One Response

  1. avatar nav-left

    Congratulations! How, in a truly open society can the Department of Health justify that a legal operation be shrouded in such secrecy? At last reason prevails.