23-Week-Old Baby Born One Week Before the Legal Abortion Limit Defies the Odds, Turns 1

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Oct 23, 2017   |   1:41PM   |   London, England

Just one year ago, British infant Abi Peters was born so prematurely that doctors did not think she would make it through the first few weeks of life outside the womb.

But Peters survived after just 23 weeks of pregnancy, and now is a thriving 1-year-old girl, according to the Daily Mail.

One of the significant things about Abi’s birth is that she was born a week before the legal abortion limit in the United Kingdom. The number of premature babies like Abi who are surviving before 24 weeks is growing rapidly. As a result, many are calling on the UK to change its abortion laws to reflect the new point of viability.

According to the report, Abi was born in 2016 weighing 1 pound, 3 ounces at St. Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, England.

When she was six days old, doctors performed a complex stomach operation that saved her life. Surgeon Zahid Mukhtar said Abi was their tiniest patient, and they figured that her chance of surviving was only about 10 percent.

Here’s more from the report:

Mr Mukhtar adds that such operations remain controversial because of the potential for developmental problems in the children involved. 

He said: ‘What is really positive is that her development is really good. It’s quite controversial, resuscitating and operating on these tiny babies.

‘There is a question of their long-term outcome — how they may turn out developmentally, whether they have any disabilities. It’s such a hard decision to make. When we do have a baby like Abi who does so incredibly well, it helps us to help more like her.’

Abi was given a chance, but some other parents of very premature babies said their babies were not. Some hospitals in the United Kingdom do not attempt to treat babies born before 24 weeks or those born weighing less than 1 pound, because they say they are not likely to survive.

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But more babies are defying these guidelines and surviving. In 2012, a hospital mistake led to another very premature baby’s life being saved. The little girl, Maddalena, was born at 23 weeks, weighing 13 ounces. When she was weighed, the medical team did not realize that a pair of scissors were on the scale with her. The mistake bumped Maddalena’s weight up above the 1-pound guideline, and doctors worked to save her life.

Though 24 weeks is considered the standard point of viability, new studies indicate babies born before 24 weeks are surviving at higher rates than ever before. Many argue that the point of viability should now be about 23 weeks, and Britain’s legal abortion limit should be earlier, too.

A Duke University study published in January found babies born at just 23 weeks gestation are surviving outside the womb at a greater rate than ever before. Researchers examined 4,500 babies between 2000 and 2011 and found a “small but significant drop in fatalities for babies born between 23 and 37 weeks gestation,” as well as a decrease in premature babies manifesting with neurophysiological problems, the Daily Mail reported.

Research published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine also found that 23 percent of premature infants are surviving birth as early as 22 weeks. However, the study also found that some hospitals are not giving babies treatment at the earliest stages, despite indications that they could survive if treated.

Abi’s success story is another beautiful example of why babies deserve the chance to live.

Her parents, David and Louise Peters, said Abi is meeting almost all the milestones for her age. They said she loves to smile, and does not like to be left alone.

“She is a hands-on baby but she is smiling all the time,” her mother said. “She is starting to make words, trying to say mama and dadda. She can almost sit up — that is the only part of her development where she is a little bit behind — but she is trying.”