NRL News

British prelate details her crusade to expose that babies with cleft palates are being aborted

by | Feb 17, 2015


By Dave Andrusko

The Rev. Joanna Jepson

The Rev. Joanna Jepson

Years ago we ran many, many stories about the Reverend Joanna Jepson who exposed a truth the British public (and even more so the media) did not want to hear. Under a 1991 amendment to the 1967 Abortion Act (the foundation for abortion law in Great Britain), unborn babies with deformities as minor as a cleft lip and palate could be aborted late, late, late in pregnancy.

When Jepson enlisted a lawyer friend and began to agitate, she came under withering attack. We followed the legal proceedings which extended through 2003. (More about that below.)

I just learned that Jepson has a new book coming out from which the Daily Mail has run excerpts. The latest ran yesterday.

I thought I had followed the case closely. Not so, or not nearly as close as I thought.

Jepson tells us the origins of her involvement:

One day, a friend called me with shocking news. He’d just discovered that a baby had been aborted — not for some major abnormality, but merely because it had a cleft lip and palate.

‘That’s what you had, isn’t it?’ he asked.

It wasn’t. As an adolescent Jepson had different congenital deformities that earned her the cruelty of her peers. But she realized the surgery she would later have to correct the deformities was the same surgery surgeons would perform on babies with cleft palates.

Jepson could identify with these poor babies, aborted for flimsy reasons. If she’d had different parents…

But what did she know about abortion in 2002?

All I knew about abortion then was that Down’s syndrome is the most common reason for a termination. Even that was something I shuddered to contemplate, because my brother Alastair has Down’s.

A second reason abortion struck home with Jepson: there is a bull’s-eye on unborn children like her brother.

Click here to read the February issue of
National Right to Life News,
the “pro-life newspaper of record.”

The remainder of this excerpt details her education and her unwavering persistence in the face of unstinting criticism.

A friend who specialized in disability and children’s rights explained how this had come about.

There’d been an amendment to the Abortion Act passed by parliament in 1991, he told me. This made it legal to terminate at any time in a pregnancy — provided there was a substantial risk the child would be ‘seriously handicapped’ by physical or mental abnormalities.

Yet babies with a cleft palate and lip wouldn’t be ‘seriously’ handicapped. They might have to wait, as I had, for a series of operations. But then they’d almost certainly be fine.

When I read the next paragraph, I could not help thinking of the fallout that is predicted in the wake of the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn the law against assisted suicide. Back in the early 1990s, critics were dismissed as alarmists instead of what they were: prophets.

Jepson writes

It seemed incredible that no one had foreseen where the 1991 amendment would lead. But actually, they had: two lawyers had warned MPs that conditions like cleft palate and club foot might well be given as grounds for termination.

Lord Steel, author of the original Abortion Act, and Harriet Harman, had accused them of scaremongering. She’d even recommended they be reported to the Bar Council.

Now, the two lawyers had been proved right — even though it wasn’t what the amendment intended.

Jepson’s campaign did not have the perfect ending. It wasn’t as if babies with trivial disabilities were no longer aborted.

The police had not wanted to investigate what Jepson insisted was an abuse of the law. The case was taken to the High Court in 2003 and a decision was expected that December.

Meanwhile Jepson was pilloried by female journalists as a traitor to women’s rights. She received hate mail. When the High Court reconvened, her attorney was sure they had lost. But instead…

There would now be a judicial review of the police’s decision not to investigate this potential abuse of the law. Much later, the Crown Prosecution Service would decide there weren’t sufficient grounds to prosecute the two doctors who’d been involved in the abortion of the 28-week baby. But the issue was now out in the open — and there’d be more legal challenges in the years ahead.

The name of her memoir, to be published later this month, is “A Lot Like Eve: Fashion, Faith and Fig-Leaves.”

She is a remarkable woman.

Categories: Abortion
Tags: abortion