Half of all babies aborted because they have Down’s Syndrome are missing from official records due to poor administration at British abortion clinics, according to a government investigation.
The report says that doctors have consistently broken the law by failing to keep proper records on the reason for termination. Some abortions of babies with Down’s Syndrome are wrongly recorded as “social” abortions, but records for others are missing completely.
It says that in 2012 a total of 994 babies were aborted because they had Down’s Syndrome, according to the National Down’s Syndrome Cytogenetic Register (NDSCR). However, official Department of Health figures recorded just 496, meaning that 498 abortions are unaccounted for.
The report identified 11 of these missing cases as being recorded as “late abortions”, and in another 47 cases the Department of Health traced abortions for Down’s Syndrome where a different reason had been given for termination.
The NDSCR has more accurate figures than the Department for Health because hospitals alert it each time a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome is made. It then tracks each case through to birth or termination.
Official Department of Health figures, however, are compiled by doctors filling in forms after a termination.
The figures for 2011 also showed only 410 abortions for Down’s Syndrome when NDSCR figures said there had really been 937.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who chaired the recent parliamentary inquiry into abortion for disability, said doctors had clearly broken the law.
She told the Daily Mail: “Worryingly, the department appears to have made no attempt to see that the law is properly enforced.
“We now know that nearly half of abortions for Down’s Syndrome were incorrectly recorded. How many doctors were referred for investigation? None.
“Health ministers must act to restore public confidence in medical practitioners in this field.”
Speaking about the Department of Health’s flawed data collection methods, Professor Joan Morris of the NDSCR said: “There is a form with a box to tick and there is no envelope provided. The doctor has to find the envelope and write the correct address on it. It is not a system designed to be easy in a busy clinical setting.”