Surge in UK babies surviving birth at 23 weeks prompts calls for cut-off rethink

The number of babies who survive after being born at 23 weeks has risen significantly, a new report has found.

According to The Sunday Times, 70 per cent of babies born at 23 weeks are now surviving in certain UK hospitals.

Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, said the increase in survival figures are “again raising serious questions about the 24 week upper limit for social abortion”.

Better care

The Sunday Times reported that 22 out of 30 babies born after 23 weeks over the past five years have survived at University College London Hospitals.

Figures also found that 16 out of 25 babies born at 23 weeks have survived at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Together the hospitals are significantly better than the last national study, which found the survival rate of babies born at 23 weeks in 2006 was just 19 per cent.

Dr Vimal Vasu, Consultant in Neonatal Medicine at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, cited data from Japan which showed that a focus on attempting to save the lives of babies born prematurely had led to “better survival rates”, adding: “It is a self-fulfilling prophecy”.

‘Serious questions’

Writing on his blog, Dr Saunders said: “It is utterly incongruous that on the one hand we are aborting babies at a gestation when others are surviving with good neonatal care.”

He added: “Every extremely pre-term baby deserves the chance to be considered for treatment”.

Dr Saunders went on to say that the figures demonstrate “what can be achieved with a proactive approach and skilled staff” and that each society “will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members”.

“It’s time now for Parliament again to ask serious questions about late abortion”, he concluded.


Zara Taffurelli told The Sunday Times that she was “completely distraught” and “angry” with doctors who refused to help when she began having contractions at 23 weeks.

She told the hospital: “You need to help me. You can’t let my baby die”.

After being born at 23 weeks and six days, her daughter Emily struggled with breathing issues and was placed in an incubator.

She is now four years old.

Best decision

Zara says her insistence on receiving care was the best decision she ever made.

It is currently legal in Great Britain to abort children up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if doctors believe the baby will be born with a disability.

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