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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 15:41 GMT
No charges in late abortion case
Joanna Jepson
Rev Joanna Jepson was born with a deformity of the jaw
Two doctors involved in a late abortion on a foetus with a cleft lip and palate will not face criminal charges.

The Crown Prosecution Service decision follows a police inquiry into the case, which involved a Herefordshire woman.

The investigation was reopened after a judicial review instigated by the Rev Joanna Jepson, who grew up with a jaw deformity and has a disabled brother.

Her lawyers had argued a cleft lip and palate did not meet the 1967 Abortion Act standard of a "serious handicap".

But on Wednesday, West Mercia CPS said it was satisfied the doctors involved had acted in good faith.

We saw the case as a hook for the anti-abortion lobby to get doctors prosecuted for doing their job
Abortion Rights spokesperson
The abortion was carried out on a woman in December 2001, after the legal 24-week limit.

Ms Jepson, 28, the curate of St Michael's Church in Chester, argued the abortion was a case of unlawful killing.

A spokesperson for pro-choice group Abortion Rights told BBC News: "We very much welcome the decision.

"We found the form of the case had been an abortion on the grounds of severe disability - that's completely legal in this country.

"Cleft palate can sometimes lead to severe disability. We believe those were the grounds on which the doctors agreed to perform the operation.

"We saw the case as a hook for the anti-abortion lobby to get doctors prosecuted for doing their job."

'Eugenic mentality'

Julia Millington from the ProLife Alliance said she was disappointed with the decision not to prosecute.

"We are alarmed by the reasons given by the CPS but, with the eugenic mentality of medicine in the UK, it is perhaps not surprising that two doctors would determine that the best destiny for a seven-month baby with a cleft palate is to be killed.

The police have expressed concern regarding the impact on the life of the mother - we would like to have seen some concern over the lethal impact this abortion has had on the life of the baby."

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told BBC News: "We suggest the Human Rights Act might be the appropriate vehicle in this case, because this unborn child was clearly discriminated against."

Abortion not a poll issue - Blair
15 Mar 05 |  Politics
Q&A: Late abortions
01 Dec 03 |  Health
Police inquiry into late abortion
16 Apr 04 |  Hereford/Worcs
Curate wins abortion challenge
01 Dec 03 |  Health
Cleft lip and palate
16 Jan 02 |  C-D

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