Abortions where baby has cleft lip and cleft palate continue, 2019 abortion statistics reveal

Seventeen abortions were performed on babies with a cleft lip or palate in 2019, with three of those taking place between 24 weeks and birth, figures released by the Department for Health & Social Care (DoHSC)  revealed yesterday.

It is hoped pregnancy terminations for cleft lip or palate will become a thing of the past as a cross-party group of MPs have launched a Bill seeking to protect babies with these correctable conditions from abortion. 

The Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot protection) Bill, which received its First Reading in the House of Commons on 3 June 2020, seeks to clarify in law that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK. 

The issue of abortion for such minor and correctable conditions is of personal significance to Fiona Bruce MP, who is leading the group of MPs bringing forward the Bill, as her son was born with club foot.

Speaking to The Sun about her son, Fiona said: “Being born with this condition has not held my son back, rather the opposite. It has given him a depth of understanding about the value of every human life.

“Now in his mid-20s, he lives life to the full and no one would ever know, apart from the most experienced clinician in this field. It is hard to think that such a treatable disability could have deprived my son of life.”

She added: “This is a sensible law change that I am inviting all MPs, regardless of where they stand on the wider issue of abortion, to get behind and support.

“It has now been 30 years since Parliament properly reviewed our law on abortion for disability.

“Every child with one of these conditions deserves the same chance of life as my son. I also want to ensure that no parent has to go through any pressure to abort their baby for what is clearly a correctable condition.

“It’s time our legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive changes in attitudes towards those born with disabilities and medical advances in the intervening years.”

An early day motion supporting Fiona’s Bill, launched by Carla Lockhart MP, has now been signed by 30 MPs from the UK Parliament’s five largest parties.

Currently, abortion is allowed up to birth for babies with disabilities. This has been interpreted to include cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot, meaning abortion is legal up to birth based solely on a primary diagnosis of one of these conditions.

All of these conditions can be corrected. The main treatment to correct a cleft lip is an operation, which is usually done when a baby is 3 to 6 months, whereas an operation to repair a cleft palate is usually done at 6 to 12 months. Treatment for clubfoot is minimally invasive and is usually achieved using the Ponseti method.

According to DoHSC statistics, 75 babies with either a cleft lip or cleft palate as their principal condition were aborted between 2011 and 2018.

Sadly, the figures for cleft lip and palate are likely to be much higher, for example a 2013 review by Eurocat showed 157 babies were aborted with cleft lip and palate in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. However, the DoHSC has only recorded 14 such abortions.

While there is evidence the DoHSC collects abortion figures where club foot is listed as the principle condition, it does not make these identifiable in its publication of England & Wales’ annual abortion statistics. Seemingly identifying that such abortions continue to take take place, Health Minister Helen Whately has said the figures “could only be obtained at disproportionate cost”.

While the DoHSC are reluctant to release data on club foot, data reported by Eurocat showed that 205 babies with club foot were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010.

There is no shortage of testimonials from individuals who have been diagnosed with cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot and were not held back, including Steven Gerrard, Peyton Manning, Kristi Yamaguchi and Tom Burke.

Polling from SavantaComRes shows that only one in three people think it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability. The support for allowing disability-selective abortion for conditions such as club foot, cleft lip and cleft palate is likely even lower.

Stories of women who have been offered abortion following the diagnosis of a cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot on their child have proliferated the media in recent weeks.

Sophie Caldecott was repeatedly offered abortions throughout her pregnancy after her 20-week scan showed her daughter had clubfoot. 

Sharing her story with the Guardian, Sophie said: “My daughter is now six and you can’t tell that there was anything wrong with her feet or ankles now, thanks to very minor surgery in her first few months and physiotherapy. But when the sonographer discovered the problem, she told my husband and me that we could have our money back for the scans, and implied it was likely we’d want an abortion.”

Sophie was then offered another abortion at her next scan, five weeks later.

She commented: “On the one hand, medical professionals were reassuring me that this was a minor birth defect that could be easily corrected, yet on the other, I was being offered an abortion after the usual 24-week cut-off point as though my child had a severe and life-altering disability.”

Lauren Bolt, whose two-year-old daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate, told The Times it was “time legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive change in attitudes towards those born with disabilities, and medical advances”

David Smyth, a lawyer and charity boss who was born with a cleft lip, told the Belfast Telegraph: “It’s shocking babies can be aborted up to birth [for a cleft lip] – the law must change.” 

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“The abortion statistics released yesterday show that abortions are continuing to happen for correctable conditions such as cleft lip and palate. This shows the urgent need for a law change to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK.

“People are shocked and horrified when they discover that abortion is permitted up to birth after the diagnosis of cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot as the primary condition, believing it goes against the very fabric of what our country stands for today.  

“As a society, we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take great pride in the positive contribution they make to our country. To do this, we have a moral obligation to quash anything that perpetuates false and negative stereotypes towards those with a disability, and that is why we support the group of cross-party MPs who have brought forward this important Bill to help end disability-discrimination in the womb. 

“Our abortion legislation is badly in need of reform to end this unjust discrimination, and we hope this Bill is successful in helping end this disability-discrimination.”

Abortion at all-time high: 209,519 lives lost in 2019

Abortion numbers in England & Wales hit an all-time high of 209,519 abortions in 2019, according to figures released by the Department for Health today.

The total number of abortions for English and Welsh residents was also the highest ever recorded with 207,384 terminations performed in England and Wales in 2019, an overall increase of 6,776 from 200,608 abortions in 2018.

Repeat terminations

In addition to this overall increase, the figures show a rise in the number of repeat abortions from 78,988 in 2018 to 83,624. This means that, in 2019, 40% of all abortions were performed on women who had at least one abortion on a prior occasion.

Last year, it was revealed five teenagers were among hundreds of UK women who have had at least six abortions.

Data released by the Department of Health for England and Wales and NHS Scotland under the Freedom of Information Act also showed 4,389 women, including 23 teenagers, had their fourth termination.

In 2019, the number of abortions for those under the age of 16 was 1337 – an increase of 5.52% from 1267 in 2018. 

‘Twin terminations’

126 ‘selective terminations’ were performed in 2019 (procedures performed where a twin, triplet or more were aborted in the womb).

This number represents a 14% increase in ‘selective terminations’ compared to 2018 and a 75% increase compared to 2011 when there were 72 twin terminations.

Disability-selective terminations

In 2019, there were 3,183 disability-selective abortions. This represents an increase of 53% compared to 2009 when there were 2,085.

656 of the 3,183 disability-selective abortions were for Down’s syndrome. 

Campaign groups such as Don’t Screen Us Out, who have worked to highlight their concerns that new pre-natal screening for Down’s syndrome and the likelihood of this screening to lead to an increase in the numbers of children with Down’s Syndrome who are aborted, have already highlighted the 618 abortions for Down’s syndrome in 2019.

These concerns seem to have been confirmed by recent figures which found that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has fallen by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced the new form of screening.

The figures, which were released by 26 hospital trusts in England under Freedom of Information laws, account for about a fifth of the hospital trusts that offer maternity services. They show that more women who have the new test go on to have abortions.

Lynn Murray, the spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out who has a daughter with Down’s Syndrome said: “As a mother of a 20-year-old daughter who has Down’s syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her. 

“It is deeply concerning that despite the leaps that advocacy groups have made in raising awareness in support of people with Down’s syndrome, abortion in the case of Down’s syndrome is still so commonplace and widespread in the UK. In fact, we hear from parents all the time how abortion was repeatedly presented to them in the hospital as an obvious solution following the receipt of the news that their baby had Down’s syndrome.

“This is reflected directly in recent official figures showing that almost 100% of babies found to have Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland are born. This greatly contrasts with the 90% termination rate for Down’s syndrome from other parts of the UK.”

Abortions for cleft lip and cleft palate continue

The disability-selective abortion figures also show that 17 abortions were performed on babies with a cleft lip or palate, with three of those taking place after 24 weeks. 

It is hoped pregnancy terminations for cleft lip or palate will become a thing of the past, after a cross-party group of MPs launched a Bill seeking to protect babies with these correctable conditions from abortion. 

The Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot protection) Bill, which received its First Reading in the House of Commons on 3 June 2020, seeks to clarify in law that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK. 

Sadly, the figures for cleft lip and palate are likely to be much higher, for example a 2013 review by Eurocat showed 157 babies were aborted with cleft lip and palate in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. However, the Department of Health & Social Care (DoHSC) has only recorded 14 such abortions.

While there is evidence the DoHSC collects abortion figures where club foot is listed as the principle condition, it does not make these identifiable in its annual abortion statistic publications. Seemingly identifying that such abortions take place, Health Minister Helen Whately has said the figures “could only be obtained at disproportionate cost”.

In response to cleft lip and palate abortion figures, a spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“These statistics show that abortions are continuing to happen for correctable conditions such as cleft lip and palate. This shows the urgent need for a law change to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK.

“People are shocked and horrified when they discover that abortion is permitted up to birth after the diagnosis of cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot as the primary condition, believing it goes against the very fabric of what our country stands for today.  

“As a society, we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take great pride in the positive contribution they make to our country. To do this, we have a moral obligation to quash anything that perpetuates false and negative stereotypes towards those with a disability, and that is why we support the group of cross-party MPs who have brought forward this important Bill to help end disability-discrimination in the womb. 

“Our abortion legislation is badly in need of reform to end this unjust discrimination, and we hope this Bill is successful in helping end this disability-discrimination.”

Private abortion providers increase ‘market share’

As the number of abortions overall have increased, so has the percentage of abortions performed by private abortion providers, who, in 2019, were responsible for 74% of all the abortions in England and Wales. 

Over the past 20 years there has been a 255% increase in the number of abortions performed by private providers, who, in 2019, performed 153,601 terminations – an increase of 110,335 from 1999 when they performed 43,266.

The increase in terminations by private abortion providers, such as Marie Stopes International and BPAS, comes amid a year of significant safety scandals at their clinics across the UK, with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating over 60% as “inadequate” or “requires improvement” on safety grounds. 

Last year, BPAS Merseyside became the first abortion clinic to be rated as “requires improvement” since the system was introduced in September 2017.

CQC inspectors found six cases of women who “required urgent medical attention due to complications and were transferred from the service to another healthcare provider,” following ‘treatment’ at the abortion provider. Five of these cases were reported as serious incidents requiring further investigation.

Earlier this year, the UK’s second largest late-term abortion clinic, BPAS Streatham, was also found to be putting women at risk after a surprise inspection found “incompetent staff who had not completed life support training” and faulty equipment.

Despite the safety risks abortion clinics pose to women, as well as unborn babies, it seems abortion clinics haven’t been inspected since the coronavirus lockdown began over three months ago.

Commenting on continued increase in abortions performed by private abortion providers, even amid significant safety concerns, Catherine Robinson said: 

“This increase in abortions comes as private abortion clinics have been accused by the Care Quality Commission of paying staff bonuses for persuading women to undergo abortions. 

“Vulnerable women should not be seen as a revenue opportunity but sadly we know this is not the reality as abortion itself is a multi-million pound industry. Private abortion clinics have a vested monetary interest in increasing the numbers of abortions they perform every year.”

Strong support for change

In response to the publication of the 2019 abortion statistics, Catherine Robinson said: It is a national tragedy that 209,519 lives were lost to abortion in 2019. This is the highest number of abortions ever in England and Wales. Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies. 

“Polling shows large majorities of women in the UK support changes to our abortion laws that would have a positive impact on lowering the number of abortions. 70% of women want the current time limit on abortion to be lowered and 91% of women want a ban on sex-selective abortion.

“Proposals from abortion campaigners to remove legal restrictions around abortion and introduce abortion right to birth would likely see these numbers get even worse.

“We are calling on the Government to urgently bring forward sensible new restrictions and increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies. This would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of abortions that happen each year.”

Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot) Bill receives First Reading

A Bill which would change the law to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK has received a First Reading this afternoon. 

The Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot) Bill, which has cross-party support, was presented by Fiona Bruce MP shortly after today’s Prime Minister’s Questions and urgent questions. 

An early day motion supporting the Bill has also been launched by Carla Lockhart MP and she is encouraging MPs to sign the motion to show their support for the Bill. 

Both the Bill and early day motion have the support of a cross-party group of MPs from the UK Parliament’s three largest parties.

The issue of abortion for such minor and correctable conditions is of personal significance to Fiona as her son was born with club foot.

Decades after his club foot was corrected by two operations and a year of physiotherapy, Fiona’s son is now studying for a doctorate at Oxford.

Speaking to The Sun about her son, Fiona said: “Being born with this condition has not held my son back, rather the opposite. It has given him a depth of understanding about the value of every human life.

“Now in his mid-20s, he lives life to the full and no one would ever know, apart from the most experienced clinician in this field. It is hard to think that such a treatable disability could have deprived my son of life.”

She added: “This is a sensible law change that I am inviting all MPs, regardless of where they stand on the wider issue of abortion, to get behind and support.

“It has now been 30 years since Parliament properly reviewed our law on abortion for disability.

“Every child with one of these conditions deserves the same chance of life as my son. I also want to ensure that no parent has to go through any pressure to abort their baby for what is clearly a correctable condition.

“It’s time our legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive changes in attitudes towards those born with disabilities and medical advances in the intervening years.”

Currently, abortion is allowed up to birth for babies with disabilities. This has been interpreted to include cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot, meaning abortion is legal up to birth based solely on a primary diagnosis of one of these conditions.

All of these conditions can be easily corrected after birth but stories of women who have been offered abortion following the diagnosis of a cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot on their child have proliferated the media since the Bill was announced.

One such mother is Sophie Caldecott, who was offered abortions throughout her pregnancy after her 20-week scan showed her daughter had clubfoot. 

Sharing her story with the Guardian, Sophie said: “My daughter is now six and you can’t tell that there was anything wrong with her feet or ankles now, thanks to very minor surgery in her first few months and physiotherapy. But when the sonographer discovered the problem, she told my husband and me that we could have our money back for the scans, and implied it was likely we’d want an abortion.”

Sophie was then offered another abortion at her next scan, five weeks later. She commented: “On the one hand, medical professionals were reassuring me that this was a minor birth defect that could be easily corrected, yet on the other, I was being offered an abortion after the usual 24-week cut-off point as though my child had a severe and life-altering disability.”

Lauren Bolt, whose two-year-old daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate, told The Times it was “time legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive change in attitudes towards those born with disabilities, and medical advances”

David Smyth, a lawyer and charity boss who was born with a cleft lip, told the Belfast Telegraph: “It’s shocking babies can be aborted up to birth [for a cleft lip] – the law must change.” 

Official abortion statistics for England and Wales show that abortions are happening on the grounds that a baby has one of these conditions. According to the Department of Health & Social Care, seventy-five babies with either a cleft lip or cleft palate as their principal condition were aborted between 2011 and 2018. 

However due to underreporting the figures are likely to be much higher, for example a 2013 review by Eurocat showed 157 babies were aborted for cleft lip and palate in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. However, the Department of Health & Social Care (DoHSC) recorded only 14 such abortions.

While the Government are reluctant to release data on club foot terminations, data reported by Eurocat showed that 205 babies with club foot were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010.

There is no shortage of testimonials from individuals who have been diagnosed with cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot and were not held back, including Steven Gerrard, Joaquin Phoenix, Kristi Yamaguchi and Carmit Bachar.

Polling from SavantaComRes shows that only one in three people think it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability. The support for allowing disability-selective abortion for conditions such as club foot, cleft lip and cleft palate is likely even lower.

Right To Life UK has launched the Stand Up and Smile campaign and is encouraging members of the public to visit the campaign page at www.standupandsmile.org.uk where they can ask their MP to support the Bill.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“As a society, we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take great pride in the positive contribution they make to our country. To do this, we have a moral obligation to quash anything that perpetuates false and negative stereotypes towards those with a disability, and that is why we support the group of cross-party MPs who have brought forward this important Bill to help end disability-discrimination in the womb. 

People are shocked and horrified when they discover that abortion is permitted up to birth after the diagnosis of cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot as the primary condition, believing it goes against the very fabric of what our country stands for today.   

Our abortion legislation is badly in need of reform to end this unjust discrimination, and we hope this Bill is successful in helping end this disability-discrimination.”

Cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot did not hold these individuals back

Abortion is available right up to birth for babies prenatally diagnosed with a cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot despite there being no shortage of testimonials on individuals thriving with the correctable conditions.

The main treatment to correct a cleft lip is an operation, which is usually done when a baby is 3 to 6 months, whereas an operation to repair a cleft palate is usually done at 6 to 12 months. Treatment for clubfoot is minimally invasive and is usually achieved using the Ponseti method.

This week, it was announced a cross-party group of MPs in the UK Parliament have come together to bring forward the Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot) Bill.

The Bill would change the law to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK. This would mean that abortions could not occur when the primary diagnosed condition is cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot.

Below are just some testimonials from individuals who have been diagnosed with cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot and were not held back.

Steven Gerrard – Club Foot

Being born with a club foot didn’t stop Steven Gerrard from becoming a world class footballer.

Regarded as one of English football’s most influential midfielders of the modern era, Steven Gerrard captained both Liverpool Football Club and the England national team.  

During his 17 senior seasons in Liverpool, he appeared in 710 games and scored 186 goals, becoming a fan favourite and club legend in the process.

Last year, one mother shared how she was devastated when doctors asked if she wanted to terminate her pregnancy at 21 weeks after her unborn son was diagnosed with club foot and revealed that Steven Gerrard having a club foot was a source of hope.

Taylor told the Greenock Telegraph: “Steven Gerrard the Rangers manager and Liverpool legend was born with club feet so that has given me hope.

“I’m so proud of Presley and everything he has been through in these first weeks of his life.

“I can’t wait to see my baby boy kick his football and walk through the school gates.”

Kristi Yamaguchi – Club Foot

Kristi Yamaguchi is an Olympic winning figure skater who did not let her club feet hold her back.

As a young child, Kristi had corrective treatment on her feet and started ice skating, at the age of 6, as a form of corrective treatment.

Kristi’s love of ice skating kept growing and she started competing as a young teenager. In 1986, Kristi won the junior pairs title at the US championships with her partner Rudy Galindo.

Two years later they took home the same honour at the World Junior Championships, and Kristi also won the singles event. The pair came first again at the US Championships in 1989 and 1990.

Kristi then dropped out of pairs to concentrate on singles and was rewarded with her first world championship title in 1991.

One year later she won a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in France, kickstarting a successful career as a professional figure skater.

Peyton Manning – Cleft Lip

Peyton Manning is a former professional football quarterback who played in the NFL for 18 seasons.

Considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton has won the Super Bowl on two occasions and has won the annual MVP (Most Valuable Player) award five times.

Shortly after beginning his NFL career, Peyton founded his own charity called ‘the Peyback Foundation’. The Peyback Foundation’s mission is to help disadvantaged kids, in the US States of Louisiana, Tennessee and Indiana.

In September 2007, St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis renamed its children’s hospital to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent, in recognition of the donations made by Peyton and his wife to the hospital.

Tom Burke – Cleft Lip

Tom Burke has gone on to have a successful career as an actor after being born with a cleft lip that he had corrective surgery on shortly after birth.

The English War & Peace and The Musketeers actor has on a number of occasions supported Operation Smile, which offers corrective surgery for cleft lip and cleft palate around the world.  

Sir Walter Scott – Club Foot

Sir Walter Scott was a Scottish historian, poet and playwright who was born with a club foot.  His literary works often broke sales records and remain classics of both English-language literature and Scottish literature to this day.

Although he is primarily remembered for his extensive literary works, such as Waverley, The Lady of the Lake and The Bride of Lammermoor, Sir Walter was a judge and legal administrator by profession.

By the end of the 18th Century, Scotland was one of the most literate countries in Europe.

Dudley Moore – Club Foot

Dudley Stuart John Moore, CBE was an English actor, comedian, composer and musician.

Moore rose to prominence in the UK as a leading figure in the British satire boom of the 1960s and then appeared in films such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Arthur and 10.

In 1981 he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his role in Arthur, for which he was also Oscar-nominated.

Sadly, many babies prenatally diagnosed with a cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot aren’t given the same chances and can be aborted – sometimes following pressure from doctors.

This is despite, polling from SavantaComRes showing that only one in three people think it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability. The support for allowing disability-selective abortion for conditions such as club foot, cleft lip and cleft palate is likely even lower.

Right To Life UK has today launched the Stand Up and Smile campaign and is encouraging members of the public to visit the campaign page at www.standupandsmile.org.uk where they can ask their MP to support the Bill.

Fiona Bruce MP, who is leading on the Bill and is MP for Congleton, said:

“The Bill will clarify that cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot are not grounds for abortion. This is a sensible law change that I am inviting all MPs, regardless of where they stand on the wider issue of abortion, to get behind and support. 

“It’s now been 30 years since Parliament last properly reviewed our law on abortion for disability in 1990. It’s time our legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive change in attitudes towards those born with disabilities, and medical advances in the intervening years. 

“My older son was born with a club foot. He had physiotherapy every day for the first year of his life and had two operations, but now no one would ever know, apart from the most experienced clinician in this field. So I know how such a condition can be corrected. It is hard to think that such a treatable disability could have deprived my son of life, which, now in his mid-20s, he lives to the full.

“Being born with this condition has not held him back – rather the opposite. I think it has given him a depth of understanding about the value of every human life.

“I am leading a cross-party group of MPs to bring this Bill forward because every child with one of these conditions deserves the same chance of life as my son. I also want to ensure that no parent has to go through any pressure to abort their baby for what is clearly a correctable condition.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“As a society, we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take great pride in the positive contribution they make to our country. To do this, we have a moral obligation to quash anything that perpetuates false and negative stereotypes towards those with a disability, and that is why we support the group of cross-party MPs who have brought forward this important Bill to help end disability-discrimination in the womb. 

“People are shocked and horrified when they discover that abortion is permitted up to birth after the diagnosis of cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot as the primary condition, believing it goes against the very fabric of what our country stands for today.   

“Our abortion legislation is badly in need of reform to end this unjust discrimination, and we hope this Bill is successful in helping end this disability-discrimination.”