NRL News

Receiving Each Child as a Gift, Regardless of How She May be Wrapped

by | Jul 12, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Rev. Joanna Jepson

Before I write another word, please promise yourself to go to where you will find “Abortion: the lives that should not have been lost,” by Joanna Jepson.

The author, an Anglican priest, was at the center of an almost decade-long battle to dig out the truth about “late” abortions. (Our latest story can be found here.)

The British government, and specifically the Health Department, did its level best to keep hidden the reasons/justifications for aborting children after 24 weeks. Ostensibly, the only justifications–which allows for abortion up until birth—is if there are substantial risks that the baby would be born with a serious physical or mental abnormality (the so-called “Ground E”).

Rev. Jepson explains that she herself was born with a congenital jaw defect that only grew worse as the years passed. Once she reached the age where her bones stop growing it allowed her “to begin a series of face-altering, life-changing operations. The surgery that I was lucky enough to have is the same surgery that someone with a severe cleft palate would undergo.”

In 2002 Rev. Jepson “discovered the case of a baby with suspected bi-lateral cleft palate, aborted at 28 weeks gestation.” She went to the High Court asking for an investigation into the legality of such an abortion.

A long and tortuous road ensued, in which authorities did everything possible not to reveal the specifics of this case or “late” abortions in general. Finally, thanks to the persistence of the ProLife Alliance and Rev. Jepson, the Department of Health (having lost twice) reluctantly revealed the data.

According to the Department of Health a total of 2,290 babies were aborted last year for “medical conditions.” In 2010 alone, 482 babies with Down’s syndrome were aborted, including ten who were over 24 weeks of age.

The headline in the Daily Mail caught the flavor of the report: “Revealed: The thousands of pregnancies aborted for ‘abnormalities’ including cleft palates and Down’s syndrome.”

According to the Daily Mail

·         “There were also 128 terminations for the nervous disorder spina bifida, including 12 after 24 weeks.

·         “Musculoskeletal problems such as club foot were the reason for 181 abortions, including eight over 24 weeks.

·         “There were seven terminations on the grounds of a cleft palate, rising to 26 terminations for this condition since 2002.”

Jepson’s op-ed puts a human face on this shocking revelation. She begins by pointing out that “Two lawyers claimed this could lead to abortions taking place for cleft lips or club foot. Harriet Harman and Frank Dobson called for those lawyers to be reported to the Bar Council for such preposterous assertions. Ten years later, the inevitable had happened: abortion on the grounds of a cleft lip and palate.”

When she finally won the right  “to a judicial review of the police’s decision not to investigate this [2002] case, I was inundated by letters from people, many with cleft palates, clubbed feet, missing digits and other disabilities. Their shock was shared by an appalled public. Nobody really knew that abortions were taking place for such reasons. Again and again the question was asked by those with disabilities: ‘Are they saying that there were good reasons to abort me?’”

Her personal experience with this ethos goes beyond her own case. She writes beautifully about her brother Alastair. “[T]here is no surgery to remove my brother Alastair’s Down’s syndrome. It is part of him, and he wouldn’t be Alastair without it – and it does not disable him. Why, therefore, do we allow the standard classification of Down’s syndrome as a handicap in itself?” A younger sister was misdiagnosed to have spina bifida.

But “the determination of my parents to receive each of us as a gift, encouraging us to adventure within the limitations of whatever margins and strictures we find ourselves, has been instrumental in nurturing gifts of hope, resilience and compassion.” Then Rev. Jepson completes the circle:    “The recent diagnosis of my mother’s Parkinson’s disease now stirs renewed resolve in our family life.”

Please read her op-ed in its entirety at Rev. Jepson’s thoughtful and passionate column will make you proud of her entire family and will provide you will a mother lode of encouragement to continue to wage the battle for the most vulnerable among us.

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Categories: Abortion