More babies surviving birth at 23 weeks

The number of babies who survive after being born at 23 weeks is rising, new figures have shown.

According to freedom of information requests at least 120 babies born at 23 weeks, one week before the legal abortion limit, have survived in the last four years.

The figures have caused concern among pro-life groups and doctors about the current abortion law.


Information was gathered from a sample of 25 hospitals, including University College London Hospitals where six of the seven babies born at 23 weeks last year survived.

All five of the babies born at this stage at North Bristol NHS Trust also survived after being given treatment.

Dr Ngozi Edi-Osagie, clinical director of neonatal services at Central Manchester University Hospitals, said: “It is a concentration of expertise, both in medical and nursing, that contribute to making a difference in survival at this very low gestation.”


She feels that a negative view harms the prospect of a baby’s survival. “If you say that they don’t survive, they won’t,” she said.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who is a member of the all-party-pro-life group, challenged the abortion limit.

She said: “I do not understand why there is not more outcry about the fact that we allow viable babies to be aborted.

Life support

“The new figures support what we have known for a while: that advances in pre-natal care make a mockery of our 24-week abortion limit.” 565 babies were aborted at 23 weeks in 2011.

When Lily Burrows was born at 23 weeks, doctors gave her just a five per cent chance of survival.

Her mother Gillian said, “at one point she was so poorly, they even talked about turning off her life support”.

Looked after

However, Lily is now five years old and is starting primary school.

Gillian added: “I owe so much to the midwives, doctors and nurses who looked after her in those early days.”

At present, the law states that healthy babies can be aborted up to 24 weeks if certain conditions are met. Abortion up to birth is lawful when the mother’s life is at risk, or where the unborn child has a serious handicap.

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