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Blair 'pathetic' over abortion, says curate

London Evening Standard | March 15, 2005
By Paul Waugh

The political row over abortion is set to intensify today when the Crown Prosecution Service decides whether to act against doctors who terminated a foetus with a cleft palate.

A curate accused the two Hereford medics of a criminal offence in aborting the baby at 28 weeks. The CPS is expected to announced whether it will prosecute them.

Tony Blair tried to cool controversy over the issue yesterday. Catholic leaders and Michael Howard called for the legal abortion limit to be cut to 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

But the Rev Joanna Jepson - herself born with a cleft palate - insists it is an offence to abort a foetus with such a "minor ailment". She said that Mr Blair's refusal to allow time for a debate in the Commons is "pathetic" and he has shown a "real lack of integrity" on the issue.

"I think it is good that politicians are taking notice of this issue," she said. "I support Michael Howard saying he would do something about abortion on demand.

"Tony Blair, I think, has been quite pathetic. He says he doesn't agree with abortion but he is not prepared to do anything about it.

"That to me shows he is not taking people's lives seriously, - both the unborn children and women."

Ms Jepson, 28, a curate at St Michael's Church, Chester, discovered from statistical returns that the child with a cleft palate had been aborted at 28 weeks because it was said to be suffering "serious handicap".

The law allows for such terminations in severe abnormality cases, even though the legal limit for most foetuses is 24 weeks.

West Mercia Police found that no offence had been committed by the doctors, but reopened the case after Ms Jepson sought a judicial review.

The case has become a cause celebre among pro-life campaigners who claim doctors try to use loopholes in the law to terminate foetuses after 24 weeks.

In a separate move, Labour MP Jim Dobbin, chairman of the cross-party pro-life group of MPs, said there would be an attempt to change the law after the general election.

Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Johnson said yesterday that it would be "very strange" if the issue did not find itself before Parliament in some form. But he opposed a change.

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