Interim StaffNew statistics indicate that British women are eliminating their unborn children because of non-life-threatening deformities such as deformed feet or cleft lips and palates. They are also increasingly aborting children suspected of having physical or mental deformities.

Ground E of the Abortion Act makes abortion legal up to nine months if a child has a serious risk of physical or mental abnormality. Abortions can be carried out for any reason up to the 24th week of pregnancy. The figures for abortion under Ground E for England and Wales, published in Health Statistics Quarterly from the office for National Statistics, showed this number was up eight percent to 1,863. This figure does not include all babies aborted for similar reasons before 24 weeks.

Two babies have also been aborted, one in 2001 and another in 2002, for a non-life threatening reason. Rev. Joanna Jepson, a Church of England curate who was born with a congenital jaw defect, has repeatedly called for an investigation into the case of the child aborted in 2001. She maintains that a cleft lip and palate cannot be considered a “serious handicap” under the abortion act.

Down syndrome babies also are now being killed more than they are being born, with 372 abortions in 2002, a 17 per cent increase from 2001, compared to 329 births.

Patrick Cusworth of the pro-life campaign group LIFE said, “We fear these statistics indicate that women whose unborn children are even suspected as having special needs are being placed under increased pressure to have abortions … Such statistics are an indictment of a society which places a conditional value upon its citizens based upon how ‘useful’ they may prove to be in later life.”

The National Health Service last year was told to offer Down’s screening to women of all ages – including those in younger age groups with lower risks of the condition – prompting fears that figures for last year will be even higher. London Metropolitan University ethicist Jacqueline Laing said, ‘These figures are symptomatic of a eugenic trend of the consumerist society hell-bent on obliterating deformity – and at what cost to its own humanity? We are obliterating the willingness of people to accept disability,” Laing continued, “Babies are required to fit a description of normality before they are allowed to be born.”

Consultant obstetrician Maggie Blott said although the reasons for the increase in Ground E abortions are not clear, it may be partly due to screening and partly to older mothers. Mothers aged 40-44 had the highest rate of birth abnormalities, compared with the lowest rate among mothers aged 25-29.