50 BABIES A YEAR ARE ALIVE AFTER AN ABORTION; New Controversy over the Legal Time Limit for Terminations

Daily Mail (London), November 28, 2005 | Go to article overview

50 BABIES A YEAR ARE ALIVE AFTER AN ABORTION; New Controversy over the Legal Time Limit for Terminations


Byline: FIONA MACRAE

THE abortion debate was reignited last night after it emerged that 50 babies live through botched terminations in Britain every year.

The figures are the first to show the true scale of a problem thought to have been confined to just a handful of babies.

Now some of the country's leading doctors will investigate how so many survived to be born after just 22 weeks of pregnancy. Shockingly, some of the babies may have gone through more than one attempted abortion.

The revelation triggered demands for the time limit for terminations to be cut.

The procedure is currently offered 'on demand' up until the 24th week of pregnancy.

The latest figures emerged from the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (Cemach), which monitors pregnancy deaths on behalf of Britain's six royal colleges of medicine.

The study showed that, each year, up to 50 babies survive abortions carried out after 22 weeks. Doctors in Norwich are treating a toddler born at 24 weeks after three botched terminations.

The boy, now aged two, has a range of medical problems.

Cemach's report to the Department of Health could see Britain's abortion procedures being overhauled.

Currently, abortions at 22 weeks of pregnancy and above involve the fatal injection of a chemical into the baby's heart while it is still in the womb.

Any babies that survive the procedure, and are born alive, are entitled to medical care. However, antiabortion campaigners claim that some are so unwanted that they are simply left to die within hours.

Last night, one of Britain's leading obstetricians accused the doctors who carried out botched abortions of 'substandard' medicine. Professor Stuart Campbell, who last year used sophisticated 3D scans to show very young foetuses 'walking in the womb', said the figures provided more evidence for the need to cut Britain's 24-week legal limit on abortion.

Mr Campbell, consultant at the Create Health Clinic in London, said: 'I am not antiabortion but as far as I am concerned, this is substandard medicine.

'If viability is the basis on which they set the 24-week limit for abortion, then the simplest answer is to change the law and reduce the upper limit to 18 weeks.' The investigation was welcomed by Dr Maggie Blott, one of Britain's top obstetricians.

Dr Blott, of the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, said strict guidelines covering the way abortions are carried out should prevent any live births.

'It shouldn't happen in the first place,' she said. 'The practises of these particular units should be looked at.

'People should be going in and saying, "Why are you having aborted babies being born alive?

You shouldn't have aborted babies being born alive".' The Cemach figures follow several studies which show that babies born at 23 and 24 weeks are capable of surviving. …

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