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Stories about babies with Down syndrome illustrate media schizophrenia on abortion to a “T”

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Editor’s Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time when The Jerome Lejeune Foundation encourages recognition of the contributions of caregivers, families, and medical professionals, as well as the individuals with Down syndrome themselves. During the course of this month, we have been publishing new content and reposting previously published material.

It would be a fascinating experience to observe the operations of The Daily Mail newspaper in Great Britain from the perspective of an unobtrusive bystander. The rationale behind this inquiry is as follows:

The ability to reconcile the publication of highly sympathetic first-person narratives about the merits of abortion in cases of Down syndrome with the refusal to publish similar narratives about the decision not to abort in cases of the same condition represents a significant challenge for the newspaper in question.

This heightened level of schizophrenia is most evident when, as has been the case in the past, a series of powerful stories are published illustrating how 22-23-week preemies are surviving. These are babies who, under British abortion law, could have aborted at 24 weeks.

The 24-week figure is of significant importance for another reason. The majority of hospitals in Great Britain adhere to national guidelines, and will undertake minimal intervention if the child is not at least 24 weeks gestational age.

The Daily Mail’s apparent inconsistency is further evidenced by the fact that the 24-week “limit” does not apply if the baby has an anomaly, which is most often Down syndrome. The child may be aborted up until birth under the exception known as “Ground E.”

Another illustrative example is the case of a hospital that has successfully saved the lives of infants born at just 22 weeks gestation. The advent of medical advances has prompted a re-evaluation of the limitations of abortion. In her initial paragraphs, Rosie Taylor succinctly encapsulates the prevailing circumstances:

“Premature babies born at just 22 weeks are being saved in some hospitals thanks to huge advances in care.

“Babies are now surviving after being born two weeks earlier than the abortion limit of 24 weeks.

“A leading paediatrician says care for very premature babies has improved so much that at his hospital those born at 22 and 23 weeks are now more likely to live than die.

“In comments that will reignite the fierce debate over the abortion limit, Dr Martin Ward Platt, consultant neonatologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, said he believed 23 weeks was ‘the new 24’ in terms of survival chances.

“He told the Mail: ‘The conversations we are having with parents are very different to the ones we were having ten years ago. Twenty-three [weeks] is essentially the new 24. Things have changed so much that most parents are more prepared to say, ‘Let’s give it a go.'”

It is important to note that the gestational age of 24 (or 23) weeks is not inherently indicative of any particular medical or physiological advantage. The earliest date at which a premature infant can survive has been declining for decades. However, the survival rate is also a reflection of the competence and willingness of the hospital staff.

A few years ago, The Sunday Times obtained figures from 25 hospitals via the Freedom of Information Act. These figures demonstrated that 120 babies born at 23 weeks over the past five years survived. However, Taylor asserts that approximately 560 abortions occur at 23 weeks’ gestation annually.

Furthermore, the Daily Mail conducted an investigation and discovered that both the Croydon Health Services NHS [National Health Service] Trust and the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust stated that they would attempt to resuscitate babies born at 22 weeks.

Taylor concluded her post with a narrative concerning the experiences of Lily Burrows.

Lily was born at 23 weeks gestational age, with a birth weight of 1lb 3oz. The prognosis for survival was estimated to be 5% by medical professionals. Moreover, they were informed that she would likely experience long-term health complications and would require lifelong medical care.

At one point, medical professionals contemplated the possibility of terminating Lily’s life support. This information was conveyed to Ben Spencer of the Daily Mail by her mother, Gillian Lindsay. However, Lily had other ideas.

Spencer concluded his remarks with an encouraging update regarding Lily.

The subject is now attending St Mary’s Primary School in Bonnyrigg, near Edinburgh. There is no evidence to suggest that she has experienced a challenging start to life. The child’s mother described her as a “very clever, very active, and very loving little girl.”

She further stated, “I am profoundly grateful to the midwives, doctors, and nurses who provided care during those initial days.”


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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