Dozens of abortions carried out on foetuses with minor imperfections such as cleft lip or club foot
New research finds 157 foetuses aborted in three years for cleft lipFurther 205 aborted for club foot according to European monitoring groupBut only fraction of these show up on official recordsDepartment of Health admit there may be 'discrepancies' in their figures
15:02 GMT, 3 February 2013
08:14 GMT, 4 February 2013
Foetuses are being aborted for minor and treatable imperfections such as cleft lip and palate or club foot every year in the UK.
New research suggests that dozens of abortions are carried out but the reasons are not being officially recorded.
Health bosses have admitted there may be 'discrepancies' in their records after European monitoring group Eurocat found the number of abortions for minor abnormalities could be up to three times as high as official statistics show.
New research has suggested dozens of foetuses are aborted every year for treatable abnormalities such as cleft lip and palate or club foot
According to Eurocat, 157 foetuses were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010 for cleft lip and palate.
However, the Sunday Times reported that just 14 of those were recorded as such by the Department of Health.
A total of 205 foetuses with club foot were also aborted in the same period.
Both of these abnormalities can be corrected after birth.
A DoH spokeswoman said: 'We are aware
that there is a potential discrepancy in figures and are looking into
this in further detail.'
Obstetrician Stuart Campbell told The Sunday Times the number of abortions for treatable conditions was 'horrific'.
Dr Campbell, of Create Health clinic, who specialises in diagnosing cleft lip and club foot by ultrasound, said he thought the figures were inaccurate because some doctors wanted to hide the abortion or others did not record it because they were too busy.
He told the newspaper: 'We should be
given full data and these figures show that the official statistics are a
Eurocat also found the number of abortions of Down's syndrome foetuses was 886 in 2010.
But only about half of those feature on official records.
Cleft lip and palate is the most common facial birth defect in the UK and can be corrected after the baby is born but Eurocat said 157 foetuses were aborted between 2006 and 2010
Club foot is also very common and can be treated surgically and non-surgically after birth
Joan Morris, national co-ordinator for Eurocat and director of the National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register, told The Sunday Times: 'The Department of Health abortion data should not be published by congenital anomaly because it is incomplete and not accurate.'
She added that some of the abortions may have been after more serious defects were discovered.
Club foot is one of the most common congenital abnormalities, affecting one in every 1,000 babies born in the UK.
Cleft lip and palate is the most common facial defect and one in every 700 babies is born with a cleft.
Under UK law an abortion usually has
to be carried out in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, but can be done
later if there is a 'substantial risk the child will suffer from a
serious handicap or the pregnancy will cause grave, permanent injury to
the physical or mental health of the mother or put her life at risk.'
In 2011, 146 abortions were carried out after 24 weeks, out of a total of almost 190,000.
A cross-party commission was launched last week to look at the issue of abortions after the 24 week limit.
It will be chaired by Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, whose child was born with club foot.
It will review current legislation
and whether medical advances and changes in attitudes towards disability
mean the law should be updated.