Survival of very premature babies: prospective cohort study, 1994-9 compared with 2000-5
Ailbhe Burke considers a study that looked at the viability of extremely premature babies and had implications for abortion law
The UK Abortion Act 1967 made abortion legal up to 28 weeks of completed gestation. It was amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to allow abortion only up to 24 weeks except in limited circumstances. Since then outcomes for premature babies have improved, and babies born at less than 24 weeks' gestation may now survive.
In the light of this, a House of Commons review of the UK abortion legislation in late 2007 and early 2008 considered reducing the legal limit for abortions to less than 24 weeks. The review yielded no further amendments to the Abortion Act but highlighted a lack of published, peer reviewed evidence from the United Kingdom about whether the survival of infants born at 23 or 24 weeks has improved.
Current research in this area is limited. The main source for the United Kingdom is the EPICure study (www.epicure.ac.uk), also known as