Late abortion data ‘should remain secret’

By staff

Data on late abortions performed because of minor disabilities should remain confidential, the government will argue today.

The Department of Health (DoH) will argue in court that the decision to keep details of the numbers of abortions for conditions like club foot and cleft palate be maintained.

In 2008, the information commissioner ruled that figures should be made public, putting an end to the four year battle for the disclosure of such data by the Pro-Life Alliance (PLA).

In their appeal against this decision, the DoH will argue that women and doctors involved in such operations could be identified, if the information was to be published.

Up until 2002, such data could legally be disclosed. However the practice was ended if fewer than 10 cases were involved to avoid identification.

In 2005, the PLA confronted this position and asked for the figures to be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Ministers from the DoH refused to publish any details of late-term abortions after being ordered to do so by the information commissioner. An appeal against the decision was then launched.

Abortions for serious risk of disability can be legally performed at any time until birth under the Abortion Act 1967 provided that two doctors agree to the procedure.

The controversial data was last published in 2002 and revealed that five abortions were performed for deformed feet and another for cleft lip and palate.