Aborted fetuses could survive. And they have, one in thirty. Such are the results of a 10-year study covering 20 UK hospitals. //
Most of these babies with disabilities were born between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy and all lived for no more than a few hours, according to a report published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology study.
About 190,000 abortions take place annually in England and Wales. This is nearly a quarter of all pregnancies. Most abortions are carried out on "healthy" fetuses for social reasons.
The study, however, looked at the outcomes of 3,189 abortions performed between 1995 and 2004 because the baby had a disability of some kind. It showed that 102 - or around one in 30 - were born alive. But abortion experts said such incidents were extremely rare.
Abortion is allowed in Britain up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Beyond this, a termination is only sanctioned if the baby has a severe disability or if the mother's life is at risk.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' 1996 guidance on termination of pregnancy for foetal abnormality say a legal abortion must not be allowed to result in a live birth.
Theoretically, such an event could result in a doctor being accused of murder if a "deliberate act" - that is, legal abortion - were to be followed by a live birth and the subsequent death of the child because of immaturity.
Guidelines say that doctors should ensure that the drugs they use for the termination also prevent such babies being alive at birth.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, stressed that termination due to a diagnosis of a severe or life-threatening disability in the fetus was rare.
"It would be wrong to imply from this retrospective study, that if women undergo a medical induction abortion at under 24 weeks' gestation for reasons aside from foetal abnor
mality, that this is at all likely to result in a live birth.
"Doctors working in abortion care have for some years now followed the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist's guidance, that the fetal heart is stopped before a medical induction abortion around 22 weeks' gestation."
But understandably the so-called pro-Life activists are agitated.
Julia Millington of the pro-life group Alive and Kicking Campaign contended that the rates found at West Midlands hospitals studied were likely to be mirrored elsewhere in the UK.
She explained: "If 102 out of 3,189 babies aborted for reasons of impairment are born alive, then how many healthy babies must be surviving?
"It is difficult to comprehend the number of babies, throughout the country, left fighting for their lives."
But feminists are unconvinced and find the laws becoming increasingly repressive.
Only in March last the Amnesty International's UK branch (AIUK) voted at their annual conference in favor of supporting the right to safe and legal abortion.
Jon O'Brien, president of the Catholics for a Free Choice President, declared, "Increasingly, human rights advocacy groups the world over are realizing that a woman’s freedom is intimately tied to her ability to control her reproductive health. Be it the UK, Ireland or Mexico, all women deserve access to safe, legal abortion. Amnesty International UK has a great opportunity to affirm that reproductive rights, including the right to end a pregnancy through abortion, are a vital part of the human rights canon."
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