UK Scientists Debate Whether 24-Week Limit on Abortions is Too Long

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 16, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

UK Scientists Debate Whether 24-Week Limit on Abortions is Too Long Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 16,

London, England ( — Scientists in England are debating whether the 24-week limit on doing abortions is too long and goes into the time period during which unborn children are considered viable. Some doctors are saying babies can survive at that time period and shouldn’t become victims of abortions.

The science and technology committee of the nation’s parliament is reviewing the issue and considering dropping the limit to 22 weeks and making the latter abortions illegal.

Professor Stuart Campbell, former professor of obstetrics and gynecology at King’s College London, said that 3D and 4D ultrasound technology shows unborn children showing emotions at 23 and 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

These include "facial expressions which often occur in response to external stimuli, smiling and a sort of crying expression," he told the Today television program.

"Even towards 24 weeks, their eyelids will begin to open and they make breathing movements," he said. "So I really feel pretty appalled at the idea that we would abort normal babies; most are born alive and most are just allowed to die."

John Wyatt, Professor of Neonatal Pediatrics at the University College London, also testified and said that medical treatment for babies born prematurely has improved since the UK legalized abortion 40 years ago.

"Since 1995, there have been very significant and wide-reaching improvements in the quality of care provide," he said.

“The data from recent studies indicate that there has been continuing improvement in the survival of extremely pre-term infants over the last 15-20 years with very substantial infants now surviving at 23 and 24 weeks of gestation," he added.

"Survival at 22 weeks is unusual but has been observed in a number of neonatal centers," he explained.

Meanwhile, the committee is also considering revising current law which requires two physicians to sign off on an abortion beforehand.

Tony Calland, who chairs the medical ethics committee for the British Medical Association, testified that the requirement is onerous, especially during abortions in the early portions of pregnancy.

"As long as [pregnant women] have had all the risks and benefits explained to them and discussed with them, so that they have an appropriate amount of information to make a legitimate decision, we feel that it is up to them to decide what is best for them," he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.

The committee is reviewing the 1967 Abortion Act which made abortions legal in the UK 40 years ago.