More babies born as early as 22 weeks are surviving with the right care, according to a new study that has fuelled calls for a lower time limit for abortion.
Experts from the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) found that while in 1983 just 32% of babies born at between 22 and 25 weeks survived, by 2000 their chances had improved to 71%.
The figures cast doubt on the conclusions of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, which found ‘no reason’ for reducing the 24 week limit.
But the experts behind the UCLH study say that the Committee relied on figures for maternity wards nationwide, where neonatal provision varies widely. They say a better indication of survival rates can be found in those hospitals which have the right facilities.
Professor John Wyatt, neonatal consultant at UCLH, said: “The survival of extremely premature infants has been a matter of recent debate.
“A previous study of all extremely premature infants born alive in the UK and Ireland (the EPICure study) gave substantially lower survival rates than we report here.”
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has attacked the Committee’s conclusions: “It is no secret that I was extremely unhappy with the Science and Technology Committee report into reducing the upper time limit, not least because the overwhelming majority of people called to give evidence were from the pro-abortion lobby and pro-abortion MPs on the committee influenced the outcome of the report.”
Attempts to reduce the upper time limit for abortions are expected when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill reaches the House of Commons.