Late abortion data released after ruling

The Government has released figures on the number of late abortions after a High Court ruling.

Data on the number of terminations after 24 weeks' gestation show there were 147 such procedures in 2010.

In April, the anti-abortion group ProLife Alliance won the right for public access to data on women having abortions for a range of conditions affecting foetuses, including cleft palate.

The Department of Health had challenged the move, saying the numbers were so low it could lead to women being identified.

Abortion is legal in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy for disability reasons but also if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother's mental health.

After 24 weeks, an abortion is allowed only if there is substantial risk of 'serious' physical or mental abnormality, or the woman's life is in danger.

Today, data on late abortions between 2002 and 2010 were released by the Department of Health.

They showed that in 2010, 66 terminations after 24 weeks were because of problems with the nervous system, such as spina bifida.

No late abortions were carried out for cleft palate, although seven pregnancies were terminated before 24 weeks for that reason.

Eight terminations after 24 weeks were over problems with the musculoskeletal system, which could potentially include club foot.

A total of 29 terminations were for chromosomal problems, including 10 for Down's syndrome and 10 for Edwards' syndrome.

In 2005, one baby was aborted after 24 weeks because of cleft palate - the only case recorded in the last eight years.

Other data released by the Government showed there were 3,718 abortions to under-16s in England in 2010, including 2,676 to 15-year-olds, 906 to 14-year-olds, 134 to 13-year-olds and two to 12-year-olds.

One 11-year-old had an abortion in 2008, alongside one 11-year-old in 2005 and one in 2002.

The figures are for England and Wales.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said: "The publication of these statistics after a campaign by the anti-abortion lobby reveals little more than their own vindictiveness.

"Abortion for foetal anomaly is legal. Behind every one of these figures are doctors and nurses who deserve our admiration and support, and a couple who have often lost a much-wanted pregnancy."