The studies on survival rates for babies born before 24 weeks, published in the British Medical Journal, shed a welcome light onto the debate about the current 24-week limit. In October the Minister for Women, Maria Miller, said the limit should be lowered because babies are surviving at ever younger gestational stages, while the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, called for the limit to be halved to 12 weeks.
The finding from the two studies conducted 11 years apart is that there has been no significant improvement in the survival of extremely premature babies born before 24 weeks. This contradicts Cabinet ministers’ claims that the abortion limit should be lowered because, to quote Maria Miller, “the science has moved on”.
As the Independent puts it in their leader, “by pouring cold water on Ms Miller’s claims, the figures also amply illustrate the danger of politicians’ co-opting half-baked science to bolster personal prejudices, however sincerely held. Those with the power to govern have a duty to establish the facts. Abortion is a tricky enough issue already without ministers adding to the confusion”.