Thursday, February 19, 2009

Government shifty about numbers of abortions for trivial disabilities


From CFNews: Pro-life campaigners have launched a legal battle after being barred from a hearing over abortion figures which the Government wants to keep secret.

They have accused officials of using restrictions that are more heavy-handed than those used in terrorist trials, to exclude them from a tribunal which will decide whether statistics on foetuses aborted because of disabilities will be published.

The hearing next month will decide whether figures on the number of babies aborted for disabilities such as cleft palate and club foot should be published.
While abortion is only legal in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy if carried out on social grounds, it is legal to abort a foetus which has a serious risk of physical or mental abnormality, right up to birth.

In 2005, after a public outcry over the termination of a foetus with a cleft palate at 28 weeks, the Department of Health (DoH) stopped publishing abortion statistics if fewer than 10 cases were carried out. Details of abortions on foetus with club feet, cleft lips and palates and webbed fingers and toes were no longer published.

The Information Commissioner has ordered the release of the figures, requested by the Pro-Life Alliance campaign group, but the DoH is resisting, claiming that the data could lead to women who have late abortions being identified.

Now, campaigners are challenging an application by the DoH to bar them from the proceedings in which the crucial decision will be made.

Lawyers for the alliance say even the most sensitive legal hearings, including matters of national security, are normally divided into public and private sessions, and have lodged an application with the commissioner demanding to know the DoH's grounds for seeking to bar them from the entire hearing.

During discussions about restrictions at the hearings, Government lawyers referred to procedures used in terrorist trials, when lawyers are not allowed to discuss the most sensitive evidence with their clients, before going further, to request that the alliance are entirely banned from proceedings.

Julia Millington, from the alliance, accused the Government of a 'serious misuse' of the judicial process to shield the debate from scrutiny.

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe is backing their case. She said: 'As a former home office minister and shadow health secretary, I know that proper scrutiny can only take place where there is proper information. Those who take a close interest in abortion law are as entitled to the provision of information as those who take an interest in any other law'.

The DoH said it asked for the restrictions because officials wanted to be able to make free and frank disclosure of the data itself in order to help the tribunal understand its highly sensitive nature. A spokesman said DoH lawyers had not implied that the presence of campaigners at the tribunal raised issues on a par with a terrorist threat to national security, but had made a reference to legal procedures used in such cases. [Sunday Telegraph]

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen