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Baby born before abortion limit and given 24 hours to live celebrates 1st birthday

A baby born a week before the abortion limit in the UK and thought to have only 24 hours to live has just celebrated his first birthday.

Baby Hector was born in Scotland last November at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh, when his mum was just 23 weeks pregnant. His mum and dad, Marie Clare and Angus, had lost a baby during pregnancy three years before so this pregnancy was considered high risk.

Marie Clare said “When I went to hospital with sharp pains doctors told me I was in labour”.

“I said ‘no’ and tried to hide the labour pains from them as I desperately didn’t want him to arrive early”.

“[Doctors] said there was a very slim chance of survival under 23 weeks. I looked at my watch and it was one minute to midnight and so I said in one minute I will have reached 23 weeks”.

The couple weren’t allowed to see their son for almost two days

Hector was born a little over an hour later at 01.14am. Because he was so premature he had to be immediately resuscitated and placed in an incubator.

“I saw him when he was born and gave him a kiss and then he was wrapped in plastic to keep him warm and rushed to the resuscitation department”, his mum said. “I felt devastation at not being able to be with him”.

To make matters worse, COVID-19 restrictions meant that the couple were not allowed to see their son for almost two days after he was born. After that, his parents were only permitted to see him for brief stretches of time. Only after an agonising five days were Hector’s parents allowed to be with him day and night.

Marie Clare said “I was heartbroken that we couldn’t be with him in those crucial early moments”.

“It’s been the best year of my life”.

Hector suffers from a number of serious conditions including hydrocephalus, which prevents the proper flow of spinal fluid, caused by a bleed on his brain. He also has chronic lung disease, retinopathy and a feeding tube.

It wasn’t until 42 days after he was born that doctors took him off the ventilator and said he would live.

Marie Clare told BBC Scotland “When I heard, I let out a wail that came from the bottom of my soul, I can’t articulate it, it was the greatest feeling in the world”.

“There was still a long way to go but to know the team thought he was going to survive was so great”.

In April this year, five months after he was born, he was allowed to go home. He’s still in need of care, though, and has had 15 operations and been rushed to A&E 25 times.

Earlier this month, though, Hector celebrated his first birthday. 

Marie Clare said “He was born at 01:14 so we stood at his cot at that exact time one year later and had a quiet moment just so grateful he is here”.

“We reflected on how he had made it and how we were the luckiest people”.

“It’s been the best year of my life”.

About 4,000 babies are born prematurely in Scotland every year.

Outcomes for premature babies are improving all the time. Earlier this 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 and across the world “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 “Premature babies are a persistent challenge to supporters of abortion because the humanity of each of these babies is on clear display. In the UK, sadly, it remains legal to abort a baby up to birth if that baby has a disability”.

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.