Although the condition is now corrected, Rev. Joanna Jepson spent nineteen years of her life with a severe jaw deformity. Doctors could not address the problem surgically until Jepson’s bones stopped growing; thus, she spent her entire young life being bullied– by adults and children alike. This experience caused Jepson to challenge an abortion that was committed on a baby who was diagnosed with a cleft palate in utero. The abortion occurred twenty-eight weeks into pregnancy – past the point of viability when almost any baby can survive outside of the womb if born alive where proper medical care is available.
Although Jepson has never been active in the Pro-Life movement, this particular case bothered her because cleft palate is similar to the deformity with which she was born. In fact, she says that the operations to correct cleft palate and her jaw deformity are exactly the same. Babies, she believes, should not be aborted just because they’ll need one corrective procedure at some time in their lives. Furthermore, Jepson believes that killing a baby who has a cleft palate falls outside of the liberal perimeters within which abortionists in the UK are allowed to kill children.
Jepson readily acknowledges that her deformity caused her to face many hurdles that other children and young people do not have to experience. But the suffering she endured has made her more empathetic toward other people. Today, for example, Jepson has established a mentor training program all the way in the U.S., at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a prison with a reputation for brutality and abuse among inmates. Her eventual surgery corrected Jepson’s deformity, and she is now noted by media and others for her marked beauty. But Jepson doesn’t forget her struggle, and expresses gratitude that she did not face the same fate just because she needed surgery to correct a physical flaw.
Although Jepson’s legal challenge to the 28-week abortion resulted in no prosecution for the abortionists involved, the battle raised awareness of the incompetence of abortionists in completing mandated abortion forms. This failure results in a lack of accurate data for the reasons and circumstances motivating mothers to seek abortions and abortionists to agree to commit them – especially in later trimesters of pregnancy. (U.K. law is almost as lax as U.S. abortion law; abortionists can essentially abort a baby for any reason at any point of pregnancy.)
Jill Stanek shared an excerpt from a Daily Mail piece revealing that Jepson – years after the legal battle – is still outspoken about her opposition to that late-term abortion. According to the Daily Mail:
All I knew about abortion then was that Down’s syndrome is the most common reason for a termination. Even that was something I shuddered to contemplate, because my brother Alastair has Down’s… I knew children at my church who’d had the [cleft lip] condition, plus the father of a friend and two of my teachers. Probably most of us know of at least one person who’s had corrective surgery, often in early childhood. I knew I couldn’t let the matter rest. After all, I was in a unique position. Had I been born later, to a different family, that baby aborted at 28 weeks could well have been me.