Fetal viability has long been a topic of contention in the ongoing abortion debate. And new data recently released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reflect a steady increase in the survival rate of premature babies born in the U.K. and Wales.
The authors of the report credit major recent technological and medical advances as contributing to the increase. As recently as 2010 and 2011, there was much more fluctuation in birth rates throughout England and Wales. The DailyMail reported last week, however, that the steady improvement over the last five years has led to higher survival rate in both countries for infants born 23 weeks premature.
The new data note that 33 percent of babies born at 23 weeks gestation survive. Because of this, the Daily Mail notes, “the chances of life for babies born at 24 weeks – on the legal limit for abortion – have also risen fast.”
The ONS findings also conclude that 62 percent of babies born around the 23-to-24 week mark go on to live for at least one year out of the womb. This new information could have a significant effect on the legal term limits for abortion in England and Wales.
Just last month, before the new data was released, some members of the British Parliament made strong attempts to overturn current abortion laws, which they find to be too strict. Many criticized The Abortion Act of 1967, which allows the termination of a baby up to 24 weeks. The MPs also took issue with the harsh penalties a woman faces for having an abortion after the 24 week mark.
For pro-life advocates, the ONS data offer hope that this discussion will take a different turn.
Fiona Bruce, a conservative MP from Congleton, England, said that the findings highlight “how shocking it is that our current law does not recognize the rights and immense value of a baby at that stage (in) its life.”
“In the rest of Europe, the term limit for abortions is generally around 12 weeks, apart from exceptional circumstances,” Bruce added. “So at 20 weeks, a baby in France or Germany has more rights than a baby in the UK. This is not right.”
MP Robert Flello, a pro-life Labour Party member, said he believes “the public is behind a reduction in time limits and not abortion up to birth.”
In 2015, there were reportedly 185,824 abortions in England and Wales. Out of those abortions, roughly one in 50 involved a pregnancy of 20 weeks or longer, according to the DailyMail.
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