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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK
Police inquiry into late abortion
Joanna Jepson
Ms Jepson challenged the police's refusal to prosecute
A police investigation is to begin into the late abortion of an unborn child with a cleft lip and palate.

West Mercia Police confirmed on Friday its acting Detective Chief Supt Ray Groves was to head the new inquiry.

It follows a judicial review of the case sought by the Reverend Joanna Jepson who believes the operation breached abortion law.

Ms Jepson last year won her fight to challenge the police's refusal to prosecute the doctors involved.

A spokesman for the force said on Friday it had appointed a new team of officers to carry out further inquiries.

In a statement Mr Groves said: "We will approach his investigation with an open mind and interview all people associated with this case.

'No opportunity to live'

"Our renewed investigation into this sensitive matter will be carried out with due regard to all the parties involved and in the interests of openness and public confidence in the criminal justice system."

He said their investigations were likely to last until early summer.

The abortion was carried out on a woman from Herefordshire in December 2001, after the legal 24-week limit.

Lawyers for Ms Jepson, herself born with a jaw deformity, have argued that police should have taken action because a cleft lip and palate is not a "serious handicap", which would allow the termination under the 1967 Abortion Act.

Ms Jepson, the curate of St Michael's Church in Chester, told BBC News 24 the police decision to reinvestigate was "extremely encouraging".

"It affirms the value and worth of this baby's life."

Ms Jepson said it was not the case that a cleft palate was a serious disability that warranted a late abortion.

"The cleft palate can't be classed as a severe handicap therefore this is a case of unlawful killing."

'Discrimination'

Ms Jepson said she was looking forward to a judicial review clarifying the law.

However, pro-choice group Abortion Rights said the law was already clear.

"At the moment it is down to the doctor's discretion and their decision about how severe the abnormality is," a spokeswoman told BBC News.

"It was decided by two doctors that the abnormality was severe enough to allow the woman to have an abortion if that's what she wanted."

A spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said it welcomed any scrutiny that can be given to the abortion law.

"In particular, how the abortion law discriminates against the most innocent section of society - the unborn - and in particular the double and fatal discrimination which is applied to the disabled," Anthony Ozimic said.

He added that "regardless of whether it was legal or illegal, or the severity of the disability in question, the question that we need to ask, that parliament needs to ask, that society needs to ask is: should we discriminate against one section of society?"




WATCH AND LISTEN
Reverend Joanna Jepson, Cleft Palate Association
"I will be pursuing the judicial review in May"



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Late abortions
01 Dec 03  |  Health
Curate wins abortion challenge
01 Dec 03  |  Health
Curate takes action over late abortion
19 Nov 03  |  Hereford/Worcs
Curate challenges late abortion
14 Nov 03  |  Hereford/Worcs
Cleft lip and palate
16 Jan 02  |  C-D


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