Government loses abortion data bid
The Government has failed in a High Court bid to keep secret information it believes could lead to the identification of women who have undergone late abortions.
A judge upheld the Information Tribunal's decision to disclose "sensitive" data from national statistics to the anti-abortion ProLife Alliance.
Lawyers for the Department of Health (DoH) had argued that the decision, made in October 2009, was legally flawed.
James Eadie QC, for the DoH, said patients could be identified if the data was put together with other information in the public domain, with "awful" consequences for patients. But Mr Justice Cranston, sitting at London's High Court, ruled there had been no error of law.
The tribunal had been entitled to conclude that the risk of identification was "extremely remote", said the judge. It was also entitled to conclude that release of the material to a body like ProLife was "proportionate" and necessary to inform the public debate on the controversial subject of abortion.
The judge put a stay on any of the data being released to give the DoH time to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
A DoH spokesman said: "The department will now consider the implications of this judgment and the options available."
Outside the High Court on Wednesday, Josephine Quintavalle of the ProLife Alliance said: "The resistance of the Department of Health is extraordinary. This is a great victory for freedom of information and accountability and most importantly for the rights of the disabled unborn child.
"There is no proper mechanism for the scrutiny of abortion provision other than the meagre information provided by statistics, and these were far more detailed in 2001 than they are today, particularly in relationship to late abortions.
"The ProLife Alliance asked for the relevant information some six years ago. The judgment today went in our favour but there is every indication that the DoH will appeal. What is there to hide?"