At last: Department of Health releases statistics

The Department of Health (DoH) has at last released details of grounds justifying late abortions for fetal health reasons, after a David and Goliath legal battle lasting over 6 years, which started when the ProLife Alliance (PLA) first asked for these statistics under a Freedom of Information request in February 2005.

Previously, this information had been readily available and the DoH was increasingly providing even greater detail in its annual abortion statistics, until one case for cleft palate abortion post 24 weeks became the focus of media interest and public outrage. Subsequently, yearly abortion statistics were published in reduced form.

It was this backtracking action on the part of the DoH which the PLA chose to react to, asking unsuccessfully for the missing information under the Freedom of Information Act. Eventually the PLA asked the Information Commissioner (IC) to intervene in the dispute and they successfully argued the case against the DoH in the Administrative Court this April.

Julia Millington, spokesperson for the ProLife Alliance says, 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.

The ProLife Alliance is opposed to all abortion at any stage in pregnancy, but terminating the lives of babies at gestational ages when they could survive is always particularly horrifying. We have always argued that if these abortions are permitted under law, there should be no attempt whatsoever to hide details of the numbers or justifications.

We take this opportunity to thank former MP Miss Ann Widdecombe and Prof Stuart Campbell, who gave expert evidence in the Tribunal Court on behalf of the ProLife Alliance.