Roundup: The More Science Changes, The More Viability Remains the Same

Robin Marty

Science and technology has changed a lot in the last 15 years, but none of that has made a dent in the survival rate of fetuses born before 24 weeks.

Nebraska threw the fetal viability line into the spotlight with its recently passed law.  But viability isn’t as cut and dry as the 24 week threshold, and I don’t mean because of some vague science claiming “pain” possibilities.

Anti-choice advocates are claiming that medical science is constantly changing, and that soon fetuses will be surviving earlier and earlier outside of the womb.  However, even with all of the advances in technology seen in the past two decades, none appear to have done anything to advance viability.

Despite increasing efforts by doctors and advances in medicine, survival rates for babies born before the existing 24 week limit have not changed since the 1990s, a study has found.

The findings clash with previous research from one hospital in London which suggested that 40 per cent of babies born at 23 weeks survived.

Appreciate our work?

Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.


That was used in evidence to MPs considering whether the abortion time limit should be lowered.

The latest study however, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggests survival rates are much lower than 40 per cent for very premature babies – and are not improving.

The experts analysed infant deaths among 229 babies born alive at 22 or 23 weeks in Newcastle from 1993 to 2007.

The length of time the babies lived gradually increased over that time – from 11 hours to 3.7 days – reflecting lengthier and more active treatment such as resuscitation and surgery.

However survival rates did not. In total, only 19 survived. Six survived between 1993 and 1997; six survived between 1997 and 2002; and seven survived between 2003 and 2007.

Doctors remind people using the data that the other difference is that extreme measures were used to attempt to keep these planned babies alive, and even with the interventions many of them were still lost.

Co-author Dr Nicholas Embleton, of the Newcastle Neonatal Service at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne said: “Over the last 15 years, increasing numbers of babies less than 24 weeks received active resuscitation.

“Overall survival has not changed, but non-survivors endured significantly longer durations of intensive care.

“Some will feel that the prolonged periods of intensive, but unsuccessful, care demonstrated in this report are either futile or inappropriate.”

Rebecca Findlay spokesperson from FPA, formerly the Family Planning Association, said: “The survival rates of preterm babies are often used by people against abortion as evidence to cut the 24 week time limit for abortion. This research shows again that sadly, the chance of babies born under 24 weeks surviving is very small so this shouldn’t be used as justification for reducing the time limit

“Only a small number of women seek an abortion over 20 weeks of pregnancy and they’re often in very tragic circumstances.”

And that is the real point.  Abortion near or after 20 weeks overwhelmingly a case of an intended, wanted pregnancy being found nonviable, or dangerous to the mother or fetus’s health.  It is simply about taking away a woman’s ability to choose how to best manage her own physical health in the face of a catastrophe.

But, anything to have a chance to enforce your will over that of a woman’s, right?

[S]urely the main point should be a woman’s right to choose and not whether a baby might survive with medical intervention?

If the two are always linked, the length of time available for a woman to have an abortion will gradually decrease as medical science progresses and increasingly premature babies survive. This, of course, would suit prolifers down to the ground as they’d love to make all abortion illegal.

The need to take away a woman’s ability to deal with a medical issue on a wanted pregnancy after 20 weeks, the desire to force her to jump through hoops to rid herself of an unwanted pregnancy much earlier on, and the fear mongering scare tactics in pushing talking points that abortion causes cancer, are all ways for one section of society to decree what it believes is best for women.

Dan Savage puts it best in his latest column:

What most anti-choice activists have a problem with—almost all of them motivated by our sex-hating, woman-hating religious “traditions”—is sexually active women, period, whether they’re using birth control or not, whether some seek to terminate their pregnancies early or late. They want to punish sexually active women. They want to deny women access to the life-saving HPV vaccine, they want to deny women access to birth control, they want to deny women access to abortion services. And when they can’t outright deny women access to abortion—and for now they can’t—they will do all they can to make sure obtaining an abortion is a humiliating and traumatizing ordeal.

April 21, 2010

Obama: No ‘litmus’ tests on abortion in choosing Supreme Court nominee –

American Idol Gives Back: To groups that support abortion! –

Abortion doc’s killer files petition; hearing set – The Associated Press

We mustn’t meddle with the abortion time limit –

Dr. Dog Digs in with Shame, Shame – The Portland Mercury

Pro-life discrimination in Garden State halted – OneNewsNow

Oklahoma Senate Passes Five Controversial Abortion Bills – truthout

Wisconsin AG asked for legal opinion on abortion issue – FOX 21 Online

Oklahoma joins push for new restrictions on abortion – The Guardian

Florida’s Christian Family Coalition throws tantrum over parental notification … –

Group Says Abortion Clinic Failed To Report Sex Abuse – WLKY Louisville

Not an excuse for abortion – Deseret News

Pregnant 10-Year-Old Sparks Abortion Debate in Mexico – GlobalShift

Plano man indicted for threatening deadly force to stop abortions at Dallas … – Dallas Morning News

Dallas-area man indicted in abortion threat case – Dallas Morning News

Abortion Doctor Murderer Says He’s Mistreated in Prison –

Abortion restriction passes General Assembly – Lynchburg News and Advance

Judicial Bouts Reveal Power of Persuasion – New York Times

Va. legislature votes to restrict abortion funding – Washington Post

Okla. lawmakers approve restrictive abortion bills – The Associated Press

Parental notification, consent should be required for abortion – Homer News

McDonnell bid to restrict abortion funding upheld – The Virginian-Pilot

Update right to choose urged – Albany Times Union

16 and Pregnant and Almost True – Mother Jones

Clergy Gather in Albany to Urge Passage of Reproductive Health Act (S.5808) in … – ReadMedia

Family planning groups engage advanced gear – The Observer

Supporters: New Wisconsin law will lead to more voluntary testing for HIV  – Milwaukee

New Law Makes HIV Testing Easier– WMTV

HIV treatment should start earlier: Experts – Calgary Herald

HIV rampant in federal prisons: Report – Vancouver Sun

Campaign to End AIDS turns five –

April 22, 2010

Abortion-related bills signed in Nebraska, vetoed in Kansas – The Pilot

Virginia legislature restricts abortion funding – Washington Post

Abortion looms over Supreme Court fight – Washington Times

Veto session a mixed bag – Roanoke Times

Hoeffel — Onorato flipped on abortion – Allentown Morning Call

Shocking New Abortion Bills Require Vaginal Probe Ultrasound and Collection of … – AlterNet

Survival of babies born before 24 week abortion limit ‘not improved’ –

Abortion foes wage war on old allies – Politico

Group says abortion law needs to be updated – Albany Times Union

Plano man indicted on charges of threatening to use deadly force at Dallas … – Dallas Morning News

Columnist wrong about need for access to abortion – Belleville Intelligencer

Birth Control Pill Turns 50 and More Health News – The Stir

The moral challenge: A Pakistani woman’s fertility –

Global strategies for sex education  – Globe and Mail

Few Boys Receive Counseling On STIs, Contraception, Study Shows – Medical News Today

TIME Magazine’s ‘Love, Sex, Freedom and the Paradox of the Pill: A Brief … – MarketWatch

Teaching Birth Control: Punishable Offense? – The Stir

Miami-Dade County sees surge in STD cases –

Bullying of LGBT youth not a priority – Bay Area Reporter

Teen mom’s message: Don’t do what I did – Journal Times

Utah’s Feticide Law Puts Miscarriage on Trial – WomensRadio

Women Who are Uninsured – Tucson Citizen

US announces midwife training for Afghans in Egypt – Bikya Masr

Topics and Tags:


Load More

Freedom of the press is under direct threat by the Trump Administration. Now more than ever, we need evidence-based reporting on health, rights, and justice.

Thank you for reading Rewire!