Call for review of abortion time limits after new evidence reveals unborn babies could feel pain at just 13 weeks

New evidence has suggested unborn babies at 13 weeks gestation could be suffering pain as they are being aborted.

Currently, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists author all clinical guidelines for UK abortion providers. They rely on a 2010 review they undertook into fetal awareness when providing guidance to abortion providers on whether unborn children in an abortion can feel pain. 

They claim that the unborn baby is in an unconscious state and does not reach consciousness until birth. They have been criticised for this conclusion being based on the evidence from only one paper from 1986, an experiment on sheep foetuses exposed to low oxygen levels.

But two medical researchers, including a ‘pro-choice’ British pain expert who used to think there was no chance unborn babies could feel pain before 24-weeks, say recent studies strongly suggest the assumption is incorrect.

In an article, published in the influential Journal of Medical Ethics, the researchers say there is now “good evidence” that the brain and nervous system, which start developing at 12 weeks’ gestation, are sufficient enough for the baby to feel pain.

They argue that women considering an abortion at this stage of pregnancy should be told about the pain their unborn baby could experience while being terminated.

Noting the increased concerns of women over the pain unborn babies may experience, they say medical staff should ask if the woman wants the baby to be given pain relief.

To carry on regardless of new evidence “flirts with moral recklessness,” they add.

Currently, the use of pain relief in the UK is not required by law or suggested in official guidelines. This in itself is contradicted by the standard NHS practice of giving painkillers to unborn babies receiving surgery in the womb for spina bifida

The lead author of the article is British professor Stuart Derbyshire, who has acted as a consultant to the US’ largest abortion provider – Planned Parenthood – and the Pro-Choice Forum in the UK.

In 2006, he wrote in the British Medical Journal that not talking to women seeking abortions about pain experienced by unborn babies was “sound policy based on good evidence that foetuses cannot experience pain”.

However, due to recent studies, he says “it is now clear that the consensus is no longer tenable.”

Professor Derbyshire and Dr Bockmann advise: “Given the evidence that the foetus might be able to experience something like pain during later abortions, it seems reasonable that the clinical team and the pregnant woman are encouraged to consider foetal analgesia [pain relief].”

The two medics add that their own “stark differences” on the morality of abortion “should not interfere with discussion of whether foetal pain is possible”.

Pro-life groups and leading politicians have called for a parliamentary review on abortion time limits, noting that the last debate had on this issue was in 2008 before any new evidence had come to light.

Pro-life MP Fiona Bruce said: “Given developing views and research on foetal pain, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidance on this issue in relation to abortion – which is now nearly ten years old – should be reviewed.”

Cross-bench peer Lord Alton, who is part of a parliamentary inquiry into foetal pain, said: “This new evidence adds further pressure on Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We last had a proper debate on time limits in 2008.”

Calls for a review of time limits were quickly rejected by the UK’s largest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who boldly told the Mail on Sunday: “There is nothing in this paper which would lead to a change in practice.” 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists declined to comment. 

This is in contrast to the French College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines which state: 

[English translation]: “Fetal analgesia is justified by pain stimulation in case of an intracardiac puncture, but also because the injection of KCl [potassium chloride] or death itself can be painful.”

A national survey of French pre-natal diagnosis centers revealed that for late-term abortions 97% of abortion clinics or hospitals surveyed will always give unborn babies pain relief prior to administering a lethal injection that induces a heart attack (known as feticide). 

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“In light of this new evidence, we back the calls of Fiona Bruce and Lord Alton in calling for an urgent parliamentary review of time limits.

“17,913 women in the UK underwent an abortion at 13 weeks or later, in 2018, without any guidance mandating the use of pain relief for the unborn baby at any age. Yet, babies undergoing correctional surgery in the womb for Spinal Bifida, from 20 weeks gestation, will experience minimal pain as they’ll be administered pain relief. 

“Why is there this discrepancy? Perhaps it is because the provision of painkillers to a baby that is about to have their life ended would help bring home the reality of abortion. To recognise their pain would have a deeply humanising effect on unborn babies, which is something that abortion supporters are keen to avoid. It would acknowledge that there is another human being who is being denied their right to life, while they are at their weakest and most vulnerable.

Thousands urge Labour Party to scrap abortion up to birth pledge

Thousands of people have signed a petition urging Jeremy Corbyn to scrap the Labour Party’s pledge to introduce abortion up to birth, for any reason, to the UK.

The life-and-death call comes from pro-life campaigners ahead of polling day tomorrow, amid fears the UK could have the most extreme abortion law in the world and become a hotspot for ‘abortion tourism’ for the rest of Europe.

Right To Life UK are encouraging supporters to find out where their local candidates stand on abortion by visiting using their recently launched candidate database tool which details voting records and which pledges a particular candidate has signed.

The Labour Party manifesto, released last month, outlines (page 48) that the party is seeking to ‘decriminalise abortions’.

Full decriminalisation of abortion involves repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act along with the Infant Life Preservation Act. The Abortion Act 1967, sets out exceptions to this underlying legislation which provides a set of criteria outlining when these acts can legally be ignored. Under these exceptions over 200,000 abortions took place in England and Wales last year. 

Within the Act, there is a strict time limit of 24 weeks for abortions that are performed under section 1(1)(a) of the Act. If sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act and the Infant Life Preservation Act were repealed, the Abortion Act would become redundant, and so would the 24-week time limit.

Repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act along with the Infant Life Preservation Act would scrap the current 24-week time limit for abortion – and abortion would be available on-demand, for any reason, up to birth. The upper time limit would be completely abolished.

The change would position England and Wales drastically away from the European Union, where the most common abortion time limit among EU countries is 12 weeks. It could mean the UK becomes a hotspot for ‘abortion tourism’ from countries that have more safeguards, in law, protecting unborn babies from termination.  

Pro-abortion commentators have applauded the decision, making it clear that full ‘decriminalisation’ would scrap our current legal time allowing for abortion to be available for any reason up to birth.

However, the proposal is completely out of line with where women stand on the issue. Polling from Savanta ComRes shows that 70 percent of women favour reducing the time limit on abortion; while only 1 percent are in favour of extending it.

Journalist Melanie McDonagh has condemned Labour for their radical proposals, saying: “this move by Labour to decriminalise the [abortion] procedure takes us into a very dark place…

“These are seismic changes concerning deeply important ethical issues — and they simply cannot go unremarked.

“How deeply ironic that the party that makes a big deal about being pro-women would make it possible to abort girl foetuses on the basis of gender.”

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“Is the record number of 200,608 abortions for English and Welsh residents in 2018 not enough for Labour? Is 1 in 4 babies being aborted not enough for Labour? Is the recent news that five teenagers had at least their sixth abortion in 2018 not enough for Labour? Clearly not.

“The Labour Party should be committing to bringing forward sensible new restrictions and increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies. This would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of abortions that happen each year.

“Labour’s manifesto confirms that the abortion lobby will be back in full force in the next parliament, pushing to introduce new extreme legislation. That is why we are urging everyone who is against sex-selective abortion, pregnancy discrimination and wants to see our abortion time limits lowered to vote for MP candidates who have pledged to protect and support Both Lives.

“Please sign the petition to urge Jeremy Corbyn to scrap the pledge to introduce an extreme and inhumane abortion regime to the UK.”

Woman born dangerously premature dedicates life to saving other vulnerable babies

A woman who was born dangerously premature has become a doctor and is now dedicating her career to help save other vulnerable babies.

Sabina Checkett was given just a fifty per cent chance of survival when she was born two and a half months early, weighing just 2lbs and 10oz, almost thirty years ago.

But Sabina beat the odds and was able to go home with her parents after three months at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in February 1987.

Now aged 32, Sabina works as a specialist on the neonatal intensive care unit in Evelina Children’s Hospital – having first decided she wanted to become a doctor aged just six.

Sabina told The Mirror: “My school did some fundraising for our local neonatal unit, and because the school knew I was born there prematurely, I went along to visit.

“After walking on the ward and seeing all of the newborn babies in their cots, I came home and told my mum I wanted to be a doctor.”

Sabina said that because of her own battle in early life, she has a special bond with the babies she cares for.

She added: “Though it was a long and often difficult road, I felt like I wanted to give something back to the NHS that had saved my life.

“I was just like them all those years ago and now I’m helping to look after them.”

Dr Grenville Fox, clinical director of Evelina London neonatology, said: “Advances over the last 30 years mean that the outcomes for babies born at 28 weeks is typically far better than when Sabina was born.

“However her story shows that being born prematurely doesn’t necessarily mean it will hold you back.”

The news comes after a recent study found that the majority of premature babies, who are now adults, grow up to be healthy adults without any major health problems.

The survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

In 2008 only two out of ten babies born alive at 23 weeks went on to survive. Today it is four out of ten, according to a new analysis from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine.

The findings of both studies have prompted calls to review the current law in order to help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies capable of being born alive.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“Stories like Sabina’s add further pressure to the need for parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We support any change in law that would help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies in the womb. 

“It’s time that our laws were brought into line with public opinion, modern science and the majority of Europe.

“We urge everyone to ask their MP candidates to sign our Both Lives Pledge and commit to lowering the gestational time limit for abortion, something that is well-supported by women.

“Independent polling from ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below.”

About 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK each year, of which 3,148 are considered “extremely premature” — born before 27 weeks.

UK’s largest abortion provider asking MP candidates to pledge to introduce abortion up to birth

The UK’s largest abortion provider has launched a campaign to get MP candidates to pledge to introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.

The ‘my pledge, my choice’ campaign was launched by abortion provider the British Pregnancy Advisory Service over the weekend. The campaign is asking constituents to ask prospective candidates to sign a ‘pro-choice’ pledge.

The pledge includes a commitment to, “Support further moves to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales in line with previous cross-party parliamentary bills and amendments, including the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2017.”

The Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2017 was a ten-minute rule bill brought forward by Diana Johnson MP which sought to fully ‘decriminalise’ abortion by repealing ‘certain criminal offences relating to such terminations’. The radical abortion bill failed to pass at second reading.

The term ‘decriminalise’ is a misnomer used by abortion campaigners to describe the removal of almost all current safeguards around abortion.

Full decriminalisation of abortion involves repealing sections 58 and 59 Offences Against the Person Act along with the Infant Life Preservation Act. The Abortion Act 1967, sets out exceptions to this underlying legislation which last year allowed for over 200,000 abortions to take place in England and Wales. Without this underlying legislation, the Abortion Act would become redundant.

This change in law would scrap the current 24-week time legal limit for abortion – and abortion would be available on-demand, for any reason, up to birth. The current legal upper time limit would be completely abolished.

This would be the most extreme abortion law in the world. The change would position England and Wales drastically away from the European Union, where the most common abortion time limit among EU countries is 12 weeks

BPAS has not been shy about their intention to see abortion available on-demand, for any reason, up to birth. 

At the launch of the We Trust Women campaign to ‘decriminalise’ abortion the organisation’s CEO Ann Furedi made the position of the campaign very clear saying: “I want to be very, very clear and blunt… there should be no legal upper limit.”

In an interview on ITV’s Loose Women Anne Furedi reaffirmed the position that abortion should be available up-to-birth along with stating her support for allowing sex-selective abortions to take place in the UK. 

The proposed change in law is completely out of line with where women stand on the issue. Polling from Savant ComRes on whether time limits for abortion should be increased showed that only 1% of women wanted the time limit to be extended to more than 24 weeks and 1% wanted it to be increased right through to birth, in contrast to 70% of women who favoured a reduction in time limits.  

Alongside campaigning to introduce abortion-up-to-birth, BPAS has objected to life-saving plans that would let coroners hold inquests for stillbirths over fears the move will recognise the humanity and personhood of an unborn baby.

Numerous women who had lost children in labour hit back at BPAS’ response. Among them was Caroline Tully, who had to fight for an inquest for her daughter Clara. She told the Mail on Sunday, that BPAS’ opposition “could come at a cost to the lives of unborn babies, by allowing unsafe practices to go unchecked.”

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to introduce extreme changes to abortion legislation in their manifestos released last week. Both manifesto pledges have been welcomed by BPAS.

The release of the manifesto has come as Right To Life UK have launched a major general election campaign – the Vote For Both Lives campaign – a large-scale initiative that they will run throughout the country in the lead up to election day on 12th December. MP candidates are being asked to sign the Both Lives Pledge, which outlines three policy changes that are designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and end pregnancy discrimination for women. Independent polling by Savanta ComRes shows that all three policy changes are strongly supported by the public. 

Constituents are being encouraged to visit www.righttolife.org.uk/bothlives where it takes 30 seconds to ask their candidates to sign the Both Lives Pledge.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“If this campaign was successful we would see the upper time limit completely abolished. Abortion would be available on-demand, for any reason, right through to birth. This means abortion throughout pregnancy.

Polling shows that this extreme proposal is not supported by women, with only 1% of women wanting the abortion time limit to be increased right through to birth.

The proposed law change would leave us with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world and further position England and Wales drastically away from Europe where the most common abortion time limit among EU countries is 12 weeks.

MPs should be committing to bringing forward sensible new restrictions and increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies. This would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of abortions that happen each year.”