The debate over late-term abortions continues in the U.K., where hospitals are increasingly saving babies born at 22 weeks — the earliest point of viability — who could just as easily have been killed in a late-term abortion.
Babies are surviving after being born two weeks earlier than 24-week limit for abortions in England and a top doctor said those born at 22 and 23 weeks more likely to live than die thanks to advances in medicine. In fact, 560 babies are born at 23 weeks of pregnancy in England every year.
Now the question becomes whether the U.K. should look at making abortions on viable babies illegal. Here’s more on the debate:
In comments which will reignite fierce debate over the abortion limit, Dr Martin Ward Platt, consultant neonatologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, said he believed 23 weeks was ‘the new 24’ in terms of survival chances.
He told the Mail: ‘The conversations we are having with parents are very different from the ones we were having ten years ago. Twenty three [weeks] is in essence the new 24. Things have shifted so much that most parents tend to be up for saying, “let’s give it a go”.’
He put the shift down to doctors being ‘less gloomy’ and ‘more proactive’ about trying to save very premature babies, leaps forward in the way neonatal units were managed and the dedication of nursing staff.
National statistics from 2011 show about 30 per cent of babies born at 23 weeks survived. But Dr Ward Platt said he had known two babies born at 22 weeks to survive while about 60 per cent of babies born at 23 weeks at his hospital over the past six years lived.
However, he added it was important parents understood that doctors would not force resuscitation or continue treatment it if it was clear it was ‘not right’ for the baby.
His comments follow Daily Mail research which revealed some hospital trusts in England would consider resuscitating a baby born at 22 weeks if it showed clear signs of life.
The newspaper focused the story of one baby (above right), named Lucas, who was born at 22 weeks:
And in another success for medical advances, Lucas Moore has just celebrated his first birthday – but he would not be alive today if he had weighed just 20g less.
He was born at 23 weeks weighing 520g, just above Coventry University Hospital’s 500g resuscitation cut-off point.
With bleeds on both sides of his brain and a hole in his heart, the future did not look good for Lucas, and doctors asked his mother, Sylvia, 30, from Rugby, Warwickshire, whether she wanted to continue putting him through treatment.
Mrs Moore said: ‘We said that if he started fighting we would fight for him, and that’s what we did.’