Press comment – Increased survival rate for premature babies born prompts calls to review current law

The survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

This is something that Parliament should urgently revisit. It has been over a decade since time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008. 

There is a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 24 weeks whilst in another room a doctor could perform an abortion which would end the life of a baby at the same age. Surely this contradiction needs to end?

Independent polling from ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below. Our current abortion time limit is way out of line with the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks.

This change in guidance adds further evidence to the need for Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We support any change in law that would help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies in the womb. 

It’s time that our laws were brought into line with public opinion, modern science and the rest of Europe.

ENDS

  • For additional quotes and media interviews contact 07847 454108 or email press@righttolife.org.uk

Northern Irish politicians paid millions to do nothing whilst Westminster imposes Europe’s most extreme abortion law upon Northern Ireland

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith MP, this morning confirmed that Northern Irish MLAs have received a combined salary of £14.9m since the assembly collapsed

This means that MLAs in Sinn Féin, Alliance, and SDLP – the parties which made it impossible to stop Westminster imposing Europe’s most extreme abortion laws on Northern Ireland – still continue to receive their £35,888 annual salary. This was after it was cut from £49,000 per annum by the previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokensire MP.

Many concerns have been raised about the new abortion laws in Northern Ireland. Baroness O’Loan, whilst speaking in the House of Lords, quoted David Lock QC to say that a consequence of decriminalisation “may be the possible return of unregulated backstreet abortion”

Lord MacKay, the former Lord Advocate and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, also stated his opposition to the new abortion laws saying “I cannot think of a greater danger to the women of Northern Ireland than allowing unrestricted abortion again”.

Democratic Unionist Party MP, Jim Shannon, has also made it clear that “the majority of people in my constituency are very clear that they do not want liberalised abortion in Strangford or across Northern Ireland”.

The lack of action taken by Sinn Féin, Alliance, and SDLP MLAs, whilst they still received a paycheque from the taxpayer, meant that Westminster imposed abortion laws on Northern Ireland which the people of Northern Ireland do not want. 

Lady Sylvia Hermon, the Independent Unionist MP – and the only non-DUP representative in the House of Commons – said it was “unsustainable and indefensible that MLAs continue to be paid their full salaries”.

Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: 

“It is indefensible that MLAs continue to be gratuitously paid for idly sitting back and allowing Westminster to impose Europe’s most extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland, particularly those MLAs who claim to be pro-life or against the direct rule of the UK Government.

“It is unacceptable that this vast sum of money will be paid to MLAs who are meant to represent the people of Northern Ireland yet ignored them completely on the issue of abortion, something that the people of Northern Ireland did not want. 

“This happened despite MLAs receiving the highest level of correspondence on a single issue ever, with tens of thousands of constituents asking them to form an executive so that the current safeguards for unborn babies would remain in place. 

“Just last year a ComRes poll revealed that two-thirds of women and 70% of 18-34-year-olds in Northern Ireland did not want abortion laws imposed upon the province by Westminster. 

“We continue to believe that both the lives of pregnant mothers and their unborn babies matter and will continue to be a voice for the voiceless in Northern Ireland and beyond, campaigning for progressive change that protects the right to life.”

Increased survival rate for premature babies born prompts calls to review current law

The survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

The previous clinical guidance, drafted in 2008, included a presumption against attempting to provide life-saving treatment to a baby born before 23 weeks, on the basis it would not be in the child’s best interests.

However, there is now new evidence that those born at this age have a good chance of survival.

In 2008 only two out of ten babies born alive at 23 weeks went on to survive. Today it is four out of ten, according to a new analysis from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM).

Once you get to over 22 weeks, the chances of survival increase week-by-week due to technical advances, better planning so pregnant mothers who go into preterm labour go straight to specialist units and the increased use of steroids.

In 2016, 38% of babies born at 23 weeks go on to survive – double the rate 10 years previously. Once a baby gets to 26 weeks, treatment is proceeded on in most cases and 82% survive.

The new guidance states that, after consulting the family, doctors should try to save the child if they judge it is in their best interest.

The findings have prompted calls to review the current law in order to help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“This is something that Parliament should urgently revisit. It has been over a decade since time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008. 

There is a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 24 weeks whilst in another room a doctor could perform an abortion which would end the life of a baby at the same age. Surely this contradiction needs to end?

Independent polling from ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below. Our current abortion time limit is way out of line with the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks.

This change in guidance adds further evidence to the need for Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We support any change in law that would help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies in the womb. 

It’s time that our laws were brought into line with public opinion, modern science and the rest of Europe.”

About 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK each year, of which 3,148 are considered “extremely premature” — born before 27 weeks.

(Image credit: Adobe Stock: File #106055878)