Women should be able to continue to abort their unborn babies up to 24 weeks because the baby can’t feel pain, according to a controversial review of the scientific evidence.
Earlier this year David Cameron said that an upper limit of “20 or 22″ weeks for abortions would be sensible, in the light of recent medical discoveries.
But now The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has claimed that their report, which contradicts previous research, negates the need to review the UK’s abortion laws.
Professor Allan Templeton, president of the RCOG, said: “There’s nothing in the report that suggests any need to review the upper limit”.
The report, entitled Fetal Awareness, appears to rebut previous research, based on premature babies, which showed that unborn babies can feel pain.
But Professor Sunny Anand, one of the world’s leading experts in fetal pain, has previously shown that it is a mistake to assume that pain perception in unborn babies requires the same structures as in adults.
His research demonstrated that the neural mechanisms used for pain processing in fetal life are different from those of fully-developed babies or adults and that they exist at 20 weeks of gestation and possibly earlier.
The report has alarmed pro-lifers who dismissed accusations that the report undermined arguments for a lower abortion limit.
Joesephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “Performing abortion humanely does not justify the fact that you are terminating a human life”.
Her concerns were echoed by Paul Tully, General Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), who said: “The RCOG knows better than most people how marvelous, sensitive, complex and beautiful these babies are at every stage of development from conception onwards.
“Life does not start halfway through a pregnancy, it starts at conception.”
Currently unborn babies can be aborted up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, or until birth if the child would be seriously handicapped.
Critics fear that late term babies are being aborted for relatively treatable conditions such as a cleft palate, but a second report by the RCOG claimed that it was “unrealistic to produce a definitive list of conditions” for which late abortions could be permitted.
The controversial report, which was commissioned by the Department of Health, claims that the nerve endings in unborn babies’ brains are not developed enough to feel pain before 24 weeks.
And shockingly it also advises that anesthetics don’t need to be administered to babies being aborted because they appear to be naturally sedated and unconscious in the womb.
In April a baby boy in Italy was discovered to have survived for two days after a botched abortion at 22 weeks.
Press reports claimed the mother chose to abort the baby after a prenatal scan showed he had a cleft lip and palate.
He was wrapped in a sheet and left to die by staff at the Rossano Calabro hospital in Italy, but the day after the abortion the baby boy, who still had his umbilical cord attached, was discovered moving and breathing by a Roman Catholic priest.
The baby was rushed to another nearby hospital, where he died the following day.