HomeoldWhy the increasing capacity of younger preemies to survive so unsettles pro-abortionists

Why the increasing capacity of younger preemies to survive so unsettles pro-abortionists

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This has been a tremendous couple of weeks for the pro-life movement, capped by Wednesday’s 242-184 House vote in support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36). This followed last week’s study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which documented both that tiny premature babies can survive if treated “actively”, and that some hospitals, for unacceptable reasons, only offer comfort care to babies born at 22 weeks.

I had missed that Katie McDonough (writing in Salon) had already drawn the predictable pro-abortion conclusion last Friday: that pro-lifers would use the NEJM study of nearly 5,000 babies born before 27 weeks to launch an “even uglier” attack “on reproductive freedom“.

Or as the subhead so subtly put it: “A new study on the survival rate of extremely premature babies could feed the GOP’s frenzy to criminalise abortion.

Like most pro-abortionists, McDonough looks at clear evidence and when it doesn’t support her pro-abortion agenda, she minimises what it says and then misrepresents what follows.

For example, she writes

A study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine documents a small number of cases in which premature babies born at 22 weeks survived with few health problems after receiving aggressive and highly specialised medical treatment.

No big deal, it just “confirms what is already known in the medical community: that it is possible, although rare, for a baby born at 22 weeks to survive”.

But 23% is not “rare”, nor is 33% a “small number of cases” (the percentage of babies born at 23 weeks who survive with active treatment).

The percentage of babies who survive at 24 weeks (54.9%), 25 weeks (72%) and 26 weeks (81.4%) shows how far we’ve come.

The point she fails to make is that – treatment or no treatment – all these babies are sensitive to pain and all could have been legally aborted.

Some inquiring minds want to know if this has anything to do with “viability” and abortion. But McDonough tells us “that’s the wrong question to ask”.

One doctor tells her: “The bottom line is that viability has never been a fixed number, it has always been determined by doctors based on the pregnancy. This study doesn’t change that.

Another doctor said, “When I trained 10 years ago, we knew that a baby’s viability depended on many factors,” adding, “What this paper highlights is the need for regional care.

Consider the response of Doctor #1. Viability has changed – everyone knows that – so in that sense it’s not “fixed”.

But what if what he’s really saying is that when no one’s looking, he can strongly suggest to parents that they shouldn’t treat a baby at, say, 22 weeks, which undoubtedly happens. But this is also true for older preemies. Keep that in mind.

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Remember that when Roe was decided, 28 weeks seemed to be the threshold for viability. That figure has dropped to 24 weeks and, as one of the lead authors of the NEJM study said, he believes the point of viability is now 22 weeks.

And all of this feeds into the issue of non-treatment, as NRLC’s Jennifer Popik has explained.

[M]any hospitals are deliberately denying them life-saving medical treatment. … The reason some hospitals treat these infants and others do not is not based on available equipment or hospital capacity, but rather on assumptions the hospitals make about the infants’ future quality of life.

To return to Doctor #2, she no doubt meant something different when she talked about “regional care”. But “in fact”, as Mrs Popik explained, “the attitude of the hospital made the most significant difference to the likelihood of survival of these very premature babies”.

But under the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984, which remain in effect,

in order for a state to receive federal funding for its child abuse and neglect programme, it must have in place and enforce procedures to prevent “the withholding of medically indicated treatment from disabled infants with life-threatening conditions”. (The exact nature of “medically indicated treatment” is detailed in the statute and its implementing regulations).

Thus, the denial of treatment practices in many hospitals directly contravene the protections of federal law designed to prevent discriminatory denial of treatment on the basis of present or anticipated disability.

It’s all very illuminating and even more encouraging.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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