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“I’ve got two presents right here”: premature babies home in time for Christmas

Premature baby twins born at 24 weeks have been discharged from hospital in time to enjoy Christmas at home with their parents.

Kai and Raven McKinney were due to be born at the end of October, but arrived at just 24 weeks gestation in July. Both weighed less than 2 pounds at birth, the same size as toy bunnies that their family used to measure their growth.

The babies’ parents, Andee and Justin, reported that they were given a 55% chance of the babies surviving. They had tried for six years to conceive, leaving them “devastated” at the prospect of losing their children.  

Both babies proved fighters over four months in hospital

Kai was finally able to go home with his parents after 114 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), followed by his sister Raven 22 days later. Raven’s recovery was particularly remarkable, growing from an initial 1.5lb to 8lb 6oz when she was discharged from hospital.

“We’re excited”, said the twins’ mother Andee, “We never thought this day would come”. She said “I’ve got two presents right there” in reference to her babies as they return home in the lead up to Christmas.

Dr Rachel Everett, the medical director of the NICU at Memorial Hospital’s Gauthier campus, attended Raven’s discharge and spoke of the “team effort” that had gone into the twins’ survival.

Survival rates for premature babies are improving

A 2022 study, ‘Mortality, In-Hospital Morbidity, Care Practices, and 2-Year Outcomes for Extremely Preterm Infants in the US, 2013-2018’, by Dr Edward F Bell of the University of Iowa, found that from 2013 to 2018, with infants born between 22 and 28 weeks gestation, “survival to discharge occurred in 78.3% and was significantly improved compared with a historical rate of 76.0% among infants born in 2008-2012”.

The study, which took place between 2013 and 2018, assessed 10,877 infants born between 22 and 28 weeks gestation in 19 academic medical centres across the US.

The same trends are replicated elsewhere. In 2022, John Wyatt, Professor of Ethics and Perinatology at University College London and 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 “It is wonderful to hear yet another story of premature babies surviving the odds to go home with their families in time for Christmas. These stories speak of the resilience of human life and should encourage us in advocating for these very young babies who will fight for survival when given the chance”.

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.