In view of the fact that even at the late ages of 25 and 26 weeks' gestation there are still some social abortions is my hon. Friend satisfied that his Department is complying with the spirit and the letter of the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929?
My hon. Friend is certainly right that based upon the figures that I have just given, six of the abortions in 1987 where the gestation period was above 24 weeks were for reasons other than the potential handicap of the child. If the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 were amended to insert "24 weeks" instead of 28 weeks, all 23 abortions would be called into question except where the life of the mother was endangered. My hon. Friend's Bill would call into question only six of the abortions.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the answer that he has just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) confirms that, quite rightly, there are very few late abortions—
My hon. Friend is right. I repeat the figure of six late abortions—using my hon. Friend's definition of late as being over 24 weeks' gestation—where the reasons were other than for the potential handicap of the child.
Does the Minister really believe that the possibility of something as trivial as a non-inherited skin disease represents a gross handicap? Does he not agree that amniocentesis and chorionic vilius sampling are increasingly used as the first part of a search and destroy mission, that far too much pressure is put on people to abort away handicap and disability and that that becomes a quality control on life and what is really needed is help for both the mother and the child?
The information is as follows:Notification of abortions which took place with a gestation period of 25, 26 and 27 weeks showing the number with a mention of ground 4 which states "there is a substantial risk that if the child is born it would suffer such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped"