ROME, JULY 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Disturbing information about late-term abortions and the elimination of handicapped babies was released this week by the British government.
It showed that for England and Wales there were a number of abortions carried out on babies suffering from cleft palates, club feet, and Down syndrome.
The statistics didn't come easily, as the BBC explained in its July 4 coverage of the matter.
In 2003 the Department of Health decided to stop publishing information on late-term abortions following a widespread outcry when it became known that abortions were being carried out on babies with a cleft palate.
Subsequently the ProLife Alliance made a request under the freedom of information laws for the details on these abortions to be released. The Department of Health refused to do so and it was only as a result of a High Court order that the data is now public.
The tables that are now on the Department of Health's Web site cover cases of abortions carried out for reasons of genetic defects or handicaps and also abortions carried out on girls under the age of consent, which is 16 years of age in England and Wales.
In a press release dated July 4 the ProLife Alliance welcomed the release of the information, following what it described as "a David and Goliath legal battle." The organization made its request in February 2005.
A sentiment not shared by Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which provides abortions. "The publication of these statistics after a campaign by the anti-abortion lobby reveals little more than their own vindictiveness," the BBC reported.
Discrimination against the disabled
In 2010, 482 babies with Down syndrome were aborted. Ten of these were over 24 weeks old. Another 181 were aborted due to a family history in inherited disorders. In total, there were 2,290 abortions in 2010 for reasons of some handicap or genetic problem. Of these 147 were performed after 24 weeks of gestation.
In a public statement the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) expressed its concern over the abortion data.
Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, commented: "Between 2001 and 2010, the number of abortions on the ground of disability rose by one third, 10 times that of abortions generally."
"It is clear that legal abortion is a system which discriminates, fatally, against the disabled," he added.
Of course England and Wales are hardly alone in this selective elimination. Currently around 6,000 children affected with Down syndrome are born each year in the United States. The number has dropped since the widespread introduction of prenatal screening.
There was an 11% decline in the period 1989 to 2006, at a time when the number would have otherwise been expected to rise significantly, according to a June 12 report by the Associated Press on the topic of prenatal testing.
There were also significant numbers of abortions carried out on girls under the age of consent in England and Wales. In 2010 there were 3,718 abortions among those aged under 16. Broken down this shows 2,676 abortions to those aged from 14-15, 906 to 13-14 years old, 134 to 12-13 years old, and two to girls aged 12 or under.
In total there were 35,262 abortions performed on girls aged under 16 in the period 2002-10.
The latest information is not the only cause for concern about abortion in England and Wales. The number of abortions has risen by 8% during the last decade. In a press release dated May 24 the Department of Health said that the total number of abortions in 2010 was 189,574 -- 8% more than in 2000 (175,542).
The abortion rate was highest at 33 per 1,000 for women aged 19 and 20. Single women accounted for 81% of the abortion total. Overall, 91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation, with 77% at under 10 weeks.
Medical abortions, in other words those done by taking pharmaceuticals, accounted for 43% of the total, a notable increase compared to a decade ago, when they were only 12% in 2000.
Michaela Aston, from the campaign group Life, said she was concerned about the trend for women rushing in to have earlier abortions.
"It is vital that women are given time to think through their options, especially since data from other countries suggests that the introduction of 'cooling off' periods before abortion can play an important role in reducing abortion rates, as women and their partners or families have more time to look at all their choices," the Telegraph newspaper reported May 24.
The report by the Department of Health also showed that more women are having multiple abortions. In 2010, 34% of women who aborted had already had an abortion. This is up from 30% in 2000.
The dangers of having a high number of abortions at a young age, or having multiple abortions, was highlighted in a study recently published. Research carried out on more than a million pregnancies in Scotland over a period of 26 years demonstrated that women who have had an abortion are more likely to give birth to a premature baby and to suffer other complications.
According to a report on the study published in London's Times newspaper on July 5 women who have had one termination are 34% more likely to have a premature birth than those pregnant for the first time.
This rises to 73% higher than for women having a second baby, who normally have a lower risk of a premature birth.
Sohinee Bhattacharya, of the University of Aberdeen, led the research, which is still at the preliminary stage and has not yet been published.
Moreover, the risk of giving birth before term rise notably if a woman has had more than two abortions. One in five women who has had four terminations will give birth before 37 weeks, compared with fewer than one in 10 women who have had only one, the Times reported.
Bhattacharya explained that the risk of a premature birth is about 6%, while for women who have had one abortion it rises to 10%.
Even though the numbers of women who will be affected by this are relatively small, Josephine Quintavalle, of the ProLife Alliance, told the Times that it provided solid evidence of the impact of abortion on health.
"Whatever one's position on the ethics of abortion, it is more than obvious that alerting patients to the very real and incremental risks of future miscarriage should now be an essential part of informed consent protocols," she said.
On Feb. 26, Benedict XVI addressed the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who were gathered for their annual meeting. One of the topics discussed was the trauma suffered by women who have undergone abortion.
The Pope pointed out that the psychological distress that women who have aborted experience "reveals the irrepressible voice of the moral conscience and the most serious wound it suffers every time that human action betrays the innate vocation to the good of the human being, to which it bears witness."
He also criticized the fathers who leave pregnant women on their own.
Benedict XVI commented that we are in a cultural situation where there has been an eclipse of the sense of life, which has weakened the perception of the gravity of abortion. No clearer evidence could be provided than the recent news from Britain.