Prosecution ruled out over cleft-lip abortion

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The Independent Online

Two doctors who performed a late abortion on a foetus with a cleft palate will not face criminal charges, the Crown Prosecution Service has decided.

The decision follows a police inquiry into the case involving a woman from Herefordshire. The investigation was reopened after a judicial review obtained by the Rev Joanna Jepson, 28, who grew up with a facial deformity and has a brother with Down syndrome. The announcement by the CPS will help return abortion to the centre of the pre-election debate.

Lawyers for Ms Jepson argued that an abortion after 24 weeks was an unlawful killing. They said it could never be justified under the 1967 Abortion Act on the basis that a cleft lip and palate were a "serious handicap". But Jim England, for West Mercia CPS, said the doctors had decided in good faith that there was a "substantial risk" the child would be "seriously handicapped" if born.

Ms Jepson said: "I am pleased the case has raised the issue of late-term abortion and the plight of disabled babies in late-term pregnancy."