Premature Babies Born at 23 Weeks Survive, British Study Shows

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 25, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Premature Babies Born at 23 Weeks Survive, British Study Shows Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 25, 2005

London, England ( — A new study by British researchers finds that almost half of the unborn children who are born at 23 weeks into the pregnancy survive the premature birth. The results may prompt British lawmakers to move back limits on late-term abortions and could be used to strengthen laws in other countries.

The study appears to confirm the thesis that advancements in medical science and technology are making it easier for doctors to treat babies who are born prematurely and to do so at earlier ages.

Researchers at University College Hospital London found that 42 percent of the babies born at 23 weeks survived and 72 percent of the babies born at 24 weeks into pregnancy survived the birthing process as well.

Yet each year in Britain, more than 1,200 babies are aborted between 22 and 24 weeks into pregnancy and most of the babies were health and aborted for noncontroversial reasons.

Some lawmakers and pro-life groups have called for extending the limits on late-term abortions, to prohibit abortions on babies older than 20 weeks into pregnancy. However, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he opposes the change because he doesn’t want to subject women to criminal prosecution.

The study confirms the results found in two other research reports on survival rates for premature infants.

Doctors at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital found that 30 percent of 23 week-old babies survived and a study in the United States put the figure as high as 66 percent.

Sheffield researcher Dr. Alan Gibson told the Sunday Times yesterday that he thought it was wrong to allow abortions on babies that old because they have such good chances of surviving.

"Abortions are being carried out at a gestational age at which some hospitals report significant survival rates," Gibson said.

Nuala Scarisbrick of the British pro-life group Life agreed and told the Daily Mail newspaper, "Children who are capable of being born alive should certainly not be aborted."

"We have the highest abortion rate in Europe, more teenage abortions than anyone else and by far and away the longest time limit," she explained. "What a horrible situation to be in. To lead Europe in these kind of statistics is a national disgrace."

Abortion is legal in Britain up to nine months of pregnancy if the baby has a severe disability or the mother’s life is at risk. In other cases, the country has a limit of 24 weeks.