Surge in late abortions fuels calls for reduced time limit

The number of pregnancies terminated beyond 20 weeks has hit a record high, according to new figures.

Nearly 3,000 late abortions were carried out in 2006, mostly for ‘lifestyle’ reasons, reports The Sunday Telegraph. It calculates that the numbers represent an increase of 44 per cent since 1997.

The upper time limit for abortions is 24 weeks, unless the baby has a ‘serious handicap’, in which case a termination can take place right up until birth (although ‘serious handicap’ has been interpreted to include treatable conditions such as a cleft palate or a club foot).

Late abortions are usually carried out by using an injection to stop the developing baby’s heart. The dead baby is then removed either by using forceps and a tube attached to a vacuum pump, or by inducing labour. The use of forceps can result in the limbs and the head of the baby being torn from its body.

The figures will further fuel the debate on abortion. Recent evidence shows that more babies born before the abortion time limit are surviving and unborn babies may be able to feel pain at 20 weeks or earlier.

Amendments to lower the upper time limit for abortions are expected to be tabled when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill reaches the House of Commons.

Dr Trevor Stammers, of Family & Youth Concern, blamed the increase of late-term abortions on “a very casual attitude towards sex, which is aided and abetted by the medical profession”.

Related Resources