Friday 1 February 2008

Premature baby study welcome but isn't guide to abortion law reform

According to PA a study from University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) found survival rates for babies born alive between 22 and 25 weeks of gestation rose from 32% in 1981 to 71% in 2000.

The professor behind the research, Professor John Wyatt, said it showed what could be achieved if staffing levels were kept consistent and adequate resources were pumped into units.

Anyone who has experienced the trauma of a premature birth will warmly welcome scientific advances in saving both prematurely-born babies; and Professor Wyatt’s work in this field helps to fulfil the provision in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that says that children need special care and protection both before and after birth.

A child's capacity to survive is not what makes him or her a human being. When a premature baby, after receiving expert treatment, sadly dies, doctors are not criticised for treating a non-person. They have tried to save a baby, but sadly failed.

From a political perspective, it is important to note that the viability of unborn children should not be used as a guide for reforming the law on abortion. Viability is a criterion which varies from place to place in the country and from place to place in the world. Viability has nothing to do with the humanity of the child in the womb; it has everything to do with technological progress and the excellence and dedication of medical staff.

Passing legislation on such an arbitrary basis leads to legislatures making equally arbitrary exceptions – as the UK Parliament did in 1990, making abortion lawful up till birth for disabled babies and on certain other grounds.

Contact me for more information on this vital aspect of the abortion debate.