Despite claims there will be no formal effort to reduce the the upper limit for safe abortion care in the United Kingdom, numerous cabinet ministers are continuing a public debate on the issue. And just as obsessed as the politicians involved is the media covering it.
The brouhaha allegedly stemmed from Maria Miller, the new Minister for Women and Equality, arguing that abortion should be banned at 20 weeks because “the science has changed” and more fetuses are surviving outside the womb at a younger gestational age. Now, going back through the numbers, it has become clear that her statement just isn’t true.
As The Independent writes in a straight-to-the-heart of the matter headline – “It’s official: the science on abortion really hasn’t ‘moved on’ Science ‘does not justify’ reduction in abortion time limit.” After looking at data on fetal survival rate, the article notes, “Infant mortality rates by length of gestation for 2010, published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, show no improvement in survival for extremely premature babies born at 22 or 23 weeks.”
That should be fairly straight forward. Not so, writes The Telegraph in “One in 10 babies born under the abortion limit survive.”
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Out of 750 babies born before 24 weeks in the womb, 92 lived for at least a year, the infant mortality data from the Office of National Statistics show. The figures from 2010 are sure to reignite the abortion debate following comments by Jeremy Hunt, the new Health Secretary and Maria Miller, the new women’s minister that the current 24 week limit should be lower.
The article then goes on to argue that, “Overall the figures show that infant mortality has dropped steadily from 4.7 per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 4.1 per cent per 1,000 in 2010.” It’s a very different sounding statistic than that cited in The Independent:
Infant mortality rates by length of gestation for 2010, published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, show no improvement in survival for extremely premature babies born at 22 or 23 weeks.
Over the five years in which the ONS has collected figures, the survival rate rose from 11.6 per cent in 2006 to 13.6 per cent in 2009, before falling back to 12.2 per cent in 2010. Out of 750 babies born alive at less than 24-weeks gestation in 2010, 92 babies survived to one year. The other 658 babies died.
Same data, totally different spins? And here I thought that only happened in America.