New Clause 1 — Amendment of the law relating to abortion

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 20th May 2008.

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Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire 9:15 pm, 20th May 2008

The analysis of viability of premature births happens for a reason. Premature births may occur because those babies are poorly, or the uterine environment is unwelcoming, but that is very different from aborted babies, the majority of whom would be healthy, as are normal births. Unless we ask 1,000 women to abort at 23 weeks of pregnancy so that we can see what happens to healthy babies when they are aborted, we cannot use the argument of viability. But the limit was set at 24 weeks.

Between 1980 and 1985 at University College hospital, no babies survived at 22 or 23 weeks. Between 1996 and 2000, 50 per cent. of babies born at 22 and 23 weeks survived. BLISS, the neonatal children's charity, says that more information is needed about the neonatal services that are provided in this country and at what gestation babies do well. If there were dedicated transport so that babies born early could get to a neonatal unit quickly and receive treatment, there would be a rise in the figures, as there has been in Sweden and in hospitals with good neonatal units on site.

If more neonatal units did not close their doors 52 times a year, as every one in this country did last year, and if a baby could be transferred to a neonatal unit within minutes—instead of hours—of birth, we would see a big difference. We see a difference in hospitals with good specialist teams in their neonatal units. The survival figures are very different. Granted, in the EPICure 2 and Trent studies the figures were averaged out, so that every birth was brought into the figures. However, for hospitals with good neonatal units attached to them, such as University College hospital, the figures are very different.

As I said, I believe that the woman has rights, but the baby has them also. I think that the baby's rights kick in if it would have the chance of life if it were born and if it feels pain as part of the abortion procedure. At that point, the baby's rights have parity with those of the mother.

We have quoted Vincent Argent a few times this evening. He was the previous medical director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and wrote an incredibly good article this week. He talked about when women go to him for a late termination. He described how women who have been on IVF programmes ask him for a termination because they are expecting twins and would like one to be aborted. Some women go to him wanting a late termination with no good reason—they just demand a termination.

I was on "The Daily Politics" with the Minister at lunchtime today; it featured an example of someone who had had a late termination at 22 weeks because she felt that it was not the right time in her life. There comes a point when it has to be said that the baby also has a right to life.

I would like to talk about the various institutions because I know that many Members think that they have held on to what the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and faculties of neonatal medicine have said. First, I would like to talk about the Royal College of Nursing, of which I used to be a member. The RCN has taken the position of supporting the 24-week limit, but has not consulted its members. Two weeks ago I addressed a meeting of nurses, two thirds of whom were members of other health workers' unions; they were not even members of the RCN. They were angry that the college was purporting to speak on their behalf, given that they were not even members of it. The nurses who were RCN members were very angry that it was taking a position without even having consulted them to find out their opinion. Given today's technology, there is no excuse for doing that; members could be e-mailed and canvassed for their opinions very easily.

The British Medical Association is hugely influenced by its ethics committee, on which the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon sits. The association is definitely not representative of doctors' grass-roots opinion, which has been demonstrated today in a poll by Some 31 per cent. of the doctors polled want a 24-week limit, 15 per cent. want a 22-week limit and 54 per cent. want a 20-week limit.

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Kit Bathgate
Posted on 23 May 2008 1:03 pm (Report this annotation)

It's all very well to say that the foetus has 'parity of rights', but if in practice this means refusing abortion, then its rights are being treated as not equal but superior to those of the mother. Still no word of why it should have a right we allow nobody else - to use an unwilling person's body as a life-support system.