700 Doctors and Nurses Urge British Government to Protect Babies From Abortions

More than 700 medical professionals have called on the MPs in the back the amendment in the Government’s Criminal Justice Bill, in what will be the biggest change to abortion law for a generation.

In a letter to all 650 MPs, medical professionals urged MPs to vote in support of the landmark amendment tabled by a cross-party group of more than 30 MPsled by Caroline Ansell MP, which will lower the abortion time limit from 24 to 22 weeks in line with advances in medical science.

The group Among the MPs supporting the amendment are former health minister Maggie Throup, ex-shadow cabinet Labor minister Rachael Maskell, ex-shadow Labor minister Marie Rimmer, ex-home office minister Sir John Hayes, ex-Cabinet Minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Miriam Cates .

The 24-week abortion limit is now past the point when many babies survive, twice as most common time limit in European Union countries and represents a contradiction at the heart of our abortion law.

Originally set at 28 weeks, the abortion limit was lowered in 1990 to 24 weeks’ gestation. Improved survival rates for very premature babies between 24 and 28 weeks are one of the main considerations which prompted this change.

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With the same logic, and aware of the improved survival rates for babies born at 22 and 23 weeks of pregnancy, MPs are now calling to update the abortion time limit.

Research published in November 2023 by academics at the University of Leicester and Imperial College London indicates that a large number of babies born at 22 and 23 weeks’ gestation can now survive outside the womb. According to this research, there were a total of 261 babies born alive at 22 and 23 weeks, before the abortion limit, who survived to leave the hospital in 2020 and 2021.

This is compared to the Government’s abortion statistics, which show that in 2021 alone, 755 ‘ground C’ abortions was performed when the baby was 22 or 23 weeks pregnant (ground C is the legal basis on which most abortions are permitted and there is currently a 24-week time limit for abortions performed under this law ).

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors can work to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks while, in another room of the same hospital, a doctor can perform an abortion that will end the life of a baby of the same age.

Our 24-week time limit is also inconsistent with most European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on a broad social basis is 12 weeks.

Countries with a 12-week limit for abortion on demand or on a society-wide basis include Germany, Italy and Belgium as well as the more “liberal” Nordic countries Denmark and Finland. Even Sweden has a time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds that is lower than the United Kingdom at 18 weeks.

The full text of the letter from medical professionals to MPs and ministers can be read:

We are writing as medical professionals to express our support for Caroline Ansell MP’s amendment to New Clause 151 in the Criminal Justice Bill which will reduce the maximum time limit for abortion from 24 to 22 weeks.2

This amendment was long overdue due to the increased number of babies born at 22 or 23 weeks that are now surviving. In the decade to 2019 alone, the survival rate for babies born at 23 weeks doubled,3 prompting new guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) that allows doctors to intervene to save the premature babies from 22 weeks gestation.4

In 1990, the time limit for abortion was reduced from 28 to 24 weeks’ gestation as a reflection of medical and technological advances that resulted in improved survival rates for babies born before 28 weeks. pregnancy Reducing the upper time limit to 22 weeks would now be appropriate because of further medical advances that have led to significant further improvements in survival rates for babies born before the 24 week abortion limit .

The reduction to 22 weeks is a moderate change that should command widespread support, especially in the context of the median time limit for abortion in EU countries, which is 12 weeks of pregnancy. As medical professionals, we, the undersigned, urge MPs to support this important amendment.

1 HC, ‘Criminal Justice Bill (Amendment NC15)’, https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3511/stages/18470/amendments/10012565.

2 NB This clause will only reduce the time limit for abortions where the current time limit is 24 weeks, carried out under Section 1(1)(a) of the Abortion Act.

3 British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM), ‘New BAPM Framework on Extreme Preterm Birth Published’, 23 October 2019, https://www.bapm.org/articles/109-new-bapm-framework-in-extreme-preterm-birth-published#:~:text=When%20the%20 late, expected%20to%20survive.

4 BAPM, ‘Perinatal Management of Extreme Preterm Birth Before 27 weeks of Gestation (2019)’, 23 October 2019, https://www.bapm.org/resource/80-perinatal-management-of-extreme-preterm-birth-before-27-weeks-ofpregnancy-2019.

Medical doctor, John Wyatt, who is Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, Ethics & Perinatology at University College London and has worked as a neonatologist for almost 30 years, said:

“I have first-hand experience that on the one hand we are able to keep babies alive from 22 to 23 weeks of pregnancy and many of them live and lead normal and healthy lives, but at the same time the current abortion allows abortion to effectively come out of mother’s request at 24 weeks of pregnancy.”

Mischa from Surrey, mum to Amaya, who was born at 23 weeks and five days said:

“Our beautiful Amaya was born at 23 weeks and 5 days. She will be 3 years old in the summer and has come a long way. She is the most expressive baby and it will be fun to see what silly faces she pulls next, always showing his emotions!”

“He is a water baby and adored his swimming lessons. I will never forget bringing him home for the first time and when I opened the ambulance door, the whole family was there cheering and clapping to welcome my son -home. He brought so much light to so many lives.”

“It is not easy to raise our premature baby. Every day is a fight; he fought hard. But we wouldn’t change it for the world. My little boy was born at 23 weeks – why is he alive when a 24 week baby in the womb can still be aborted?”

“Abortion law in the UK is not up to date with medical science – my daughter is living proof of that. She is a baby, like everyone else in the womb at 22 or 23 weeks. We hope to see the law changed this to bring it in line with modern science so babies in the womb, the same age as my little fighter when he was born, are treated the same.”

Right To Life UK Spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“The time limit for abortions in the UK is double the average in EU countrieswhich is 12 weeks gestation, a point in pregnancy when the NHS website describes the unborn baby as ‘fully formed’.”

“Right now, a baby at 22 or 23 weeks’ gestation can be born prematurely and have a dedicated medical team provide expert care to try to save his life, while another baby of the same age can deliberately end their lives by abortion. at the same time in hospital. This is a contradiction to UK law.”

“That is why we must support Caroline Ansell’s amendment to lower the abortion time limit from 24 to 22 weeks in line with advances in medical science.”

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