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Teen born at 23 weeks gives back to the NICU that cared for him as a baby

A 15-year-old self-described neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) “graduate” wants to help other prematurely born babies and their families create memories that will last a lifetime, and mark milestones in their development and journey. 

Aiden McKechnie was born extremely premature at 23 weeks, weighing just 1lb 7oz. The teenager spent his first 137 days after birth being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 

A member of the Eagle Scouts, Aiden decided to run a Scout project to support babies and families going through something similar to what he went through 15 years ago.

Making memories for a lifetime

As part of the project, the young Scout fundraised in order to make personalised boards for families whose babies are graduating from the NICU. He then donated these boards to the NICU at the Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs. 

The boards mark the baby’s name, size and weight at birth, and size and weight on the day they graduate from the NICU, ready to go home with their families. For Aiden, he hopes that families will be able to use the boards to make a memory and to feel reassured that they will be okay.

He said that he wants the families he is supporting to “have a good life with their child, and to stand and take a picture knowing that they’re going to be okay from here on out”.

Staff and family share in the good news

Some staff at the hospital were working there when Aiden was a patient as a baby. They shared about how exciting it was to see what he had accomplished. Sharon Enoch, NICU Educator, said “He not only does well, he exceeds in every aspect of his life. To see him go from just over a pound and born at 23 weeks to the amazing young man he’s become… it’s incredible”. 

Aiden’s mum, Karla, was similarly amazed at what they have achieved as a family. She marvelled “It’s just been a wonderful journey. Where he started, where he is now, where our family is now, and that we can look back and share a positive message with other families”.

Premature babies highlight contradiction in UK law

Aiden was born at 23 weeks gestation – a time when, in the UK, his life could have been ended by abortion.

The annual abortion statistics for England and Wales in 2021 show that there were 1,054 abortions for babies at 22 and 23 weeks gestation over that year. At the same time, according to a recent study, there were a total of 261 babies born alive at 22 and 23 weeks, before the abortion limit, who survived to discharge from hospital in 2020 and 2021.

This means in the same hospital, on the same day, two babies at the same gestational age (22 or 23 weeks gestation) could have very different fates – one could have his or her life deliberately ended by abortion, and the other could be born prematurely and have a dedicated medical team provide the best care they can to try to save his or her life.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “Aiden’s story is so heartwarming and provides such hope for families with babies born prematurely”. 

“However, there is a clear contradiction at the heart of our abortion law and current medical practice. On the one hand, the law permits ending the lives of babies at 22 and 23 weeks, and, on the other hand, current medical practice strives to save the lives of many babies born prematurely at 22 or 23 weeks gestation, like Aiden was”.

“It is clear that the UK government urgently needs to review the abortion law”.

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.