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Baby born at 26 weeks inspires mum to push for neonatal care law

Anna Leathley, 35, has called for the new law, which gives paid leave to parents whose babies are in neonatal care, to be implemented now. 

Families call for neonatal care law to be brought forward

Earlier this year, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act received royal assent and became law. The law means that eligible parents can receive up to 12 weeks’ paid leave if their baby requires neonatal care. However, the Government has indicated that the law will not be implemented until April 2025. Families impacted by this are pushing for the delivery of the law to be brought forward. 

Baby born at 26 weeks inspires mum to act

Ms Leathley, from County Durham, had her daughter 14 weeks premature. Baby Millie spent 72 days in neonatal intensive care, battling infection, a collapsed lung, and a bleed on the brain. The little girl weighed just 2lbs when she was born on 10 October 2021. 

Despite doctors preparing mum and dad for the worst, Millie is now thriving as she approaches her second birthday. 

Dad forced back to work as baby fights for life

Whilst Millie was in hospital fighting for her life and Anna was recovering from the emergency C-section, Millie’s dad Michael England had to go back to work. He was threatened with termination of his contract because he needed time off to be at his daughter’s side. 

At a time when Michael and Anna were already worried if Millie would make it, they now had the added stress of worrying about Michael’s work. 

“It is an added stress you don’t need when you are with your sick baby. You don’t know if that day is going to be your last day with your baby because they can change so quickly”, Ms Leathley shared

“It needs to be implemented now”

The Neonatal Care Act has become law and Millie’s parents are thrilled that other families will not have to face the same struggles they did. However, Ms Leathley insists “it needs to be implemented now” to protect fathers and co-parents from threats from their employers. 

Charities that campaigned for the new law have also argued that it will allow parents an important time to bond with their babies and have the time to adapt to the challenges that come with being parents of babies born sick or prematurely. 

The prospects for premature babies are improving all the time

The prospects for premature babies are constantly improving. Last year, John Wyatt, Professor of Ethics and Perinatology at University College London and also Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, Ethics & Perinatology at University College London, presented evidence to parliamentarians from the UK showing “that there has been a steady improvement in the chances of survival of babies born at 22 and 23 weeks gestation since the Abortion Act was last amended [in 1990]”.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “Baby Millie has overcome so much in her short life. Compassionate laws that help parents be with their babies at a vital time in their lives underline the importance of every life, no matter how small”. 

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.