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Man born before abortion limit supports paid parental leave for parents of prematurely-born babies

A man born below the abortion limit has argued in favour of a new Bill that would provide paid leave for parents of premature and sick babies.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill, introduced in June with the support of the Government, seeks to ensure that parents of sick and premature babies are able to spend time with their baby rather than being forced to return to work due to financial constraints. Parents in such circumstances will have 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to statutory maternity and paternity leave.

James Buckley, who was born at 23 weeks and four days in 2002, and his family would have been direct beneficiaries of the Bill had it existed when he was born. Mr Buckley, who is now 20, credits his mother’s boss at the time he was born with being “well ahead of her time” since she told his mother, Penny, that she “could take as much leave as she needed” to care for her prematurely-born son.

The extra leave made a huge difference to my parents

James’ mother took a year and a half off work, from February 2002 to September 2003, including six months of paid leave, six months of unpaid compassionate leave and six more of sick leave. James says his family was fortunate because his mother did not have to quit her job.

“She would have left work to look after me and we would have probably needed to move house (the mortgage payments couldn’t have been repaid on one income)”, he said.

“The extra leave made a huge difference to my parents. In the early months, they needed to spend a lot of time with me in the hospital because many things went wrong”.

James had chest infections, chronic lung disease, around 20 blood transfusions, as well as sepsis, a brain haemorrhage and an eye operation.

My parents were lucky too – they could afford to take unpaid leave. But it did mean hard choices in the budget department.

Despite all these difficulties, James is still here today.

“Some of the past 20 years have been harder than others and overcoming the challenges of being born premature is never easy for any member of the family involved”.

“That’s why this new Bill would make a huge difference to the lives of those with premature babies. It’s not just me that was lucky. My parents were lucky too – they could afford to take unpaid leave. But it did mean hard choices in the budget department”.

“Thankfully, today, those families in a similar position stand to have one pressure less. They’ll still have a lot on their plate. But 12 weeks of extra paid leave will be worth so much more than the cash value”.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Hopefully the Neonatal Care Bill will provide a certain relief for parents in this difficult situation”.

“The extraordinary lengths that the medical community went to in order to help James when he was at his most vulnerable are commendable. It is tragic though that babies at the same gestational age as James can be legally aborted in this country”.

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