Twenty year old nursing student second-year, Sophie Proud, who was born at 23 weeks, bravely spoke out at the UK Royal College of Nursing Congress today in a debate on the ‘merits’ of introducing abortion up-to-birth.
“I would like to draw your attention to a specialist field within children’s nursing: neonatology. One sentence within the Act says that abortion can take place up until the 24th week of pregnancy. I was born at 23 weeks, 20 years ago, and I believe that this should be looked at. I realise that without extensive medical intervention, I would not be standing here today. The viability of a foetus needs to be considered as I am living proof that there is a potential for a baby to survive before 24 weeks. The survival rates are higher now than they were 20 years ago thanks to medical advances.”
Sophie Proud, who was born at 23 weeks in 1996, was one of the youngest premature babies ever to survive at the time when she was born in April 1996 weighing just 1lb 9oz – around the same as a bag of sugar. Her twin died at birth.
Whilst there is a 24 week time limit on Ground C and D abortions (which are invoked largely for social reasons), there is no time limit for abortions in England, Wales and Scotland if the baby is thought to have a disability.
The debate at the RCN congress centred around the ‘decriminalistion’ of abortion, which would allow abortions to take place up until the moment of birth, for any reason whatsoever.
Sophie articulately demonstrates that scientific advances in recent years have made a mockery of the 24-week limit in the UK.
Her speech also reflects broader public opinion. A 2012 Angus Reid poll found only 2% of women wanted the time limit extended beyond 24 weeks, in contrast with 59% of women who favoured a reduction in time limits.
It also follows the widespread public outcry earlier this year after the president of the Royal College of Midwives, Cathy Warwick, (who is also the chair of UK abortion provider BPAS) signed-up the membership of the RCM to a campaign supporting abortion up-to-birth for any reason.