Published: 30th June 2005
The Christian Medical Fellowship has expressed its sadness about the BMA vote today rejecting a lowering of the upper limit for abortion for healthy babies by a three to one majority and has criticised the BMA for giving misleading information about survival rates of premature babies to delegates.
CMF General Secretary Peter Saunders said, ‘We are very saddened about the vote which flies in the face of parliamentary and public opinion. It is doubly sad that the BMA briefing paper given to delegates failed to tell the truth about how many premature babies survive today with good neonatal care. Instead it quoted statistics that are ten years out of date. This is both unprofessional and dishonest. It was doubly outrageous that John Chisholm, a BMA Council and Ethics committee should further mislead delegates today from the platform about the state of the evidence.’
Terminations are currently allowed for healthy babies up until 24 weeks, but the time limit has been questioned as a result of medical progress improving premature baby survival rates and also with the development of new ultrasound technology showing babies walking in the womb as early as 12 weeks.’
Saunders continued, ‘the BMA briefing paper to delegates focused on the EPICure study, which also featured on the recent Panorama programme - Miracle baby grows up. The study shows survival rates of 11% at 23 weeks and 26% at 24 weeks, but these data were obtained from a multicentre population-based study in 1995. Things have moved on hugely since then. By contrast data from a widely quoted major Minnesota study published last year show a consistent year-on-year improvement in survival. For the period 1996-2000 there was a survival rate after neonatal intensive care of 66% at 23 weeks of gestation and 81% at 24 weeks of gestation.’
‘Last year the BMA passed a motion to ensure that babies born alive as a result of abortion should receive the same full neonatal care as other babies. This new debate is an acknowledgement that both the quality of neonatal care and the tide of public opinion are changing. We have now reached a situation in the UK where many doctors and nurses would welcome a further reduction over and above the 20-week limit being mooted. We know that many in the medical profession feel uncomfortable performing late abortions and most over 18 weeks are contracted out by the NHS to the private sector.’
‘Currently babies of similar age that have the same chances of survival do not have equal rights when it comes to living. One can be aborted if inside the womb, the other can receive full neo-natal care if outside it. This is not fair or right. It is incomprehensible that abortions are carried out at 24 weeks in the UK for often what amounts to purely social reasons.’
Saunders concluded, ‘We are saddened by the vote and believe that the BMA should have lived up to its stated intention to provide accurate factual information in order to help delegates make their decision in a properly informed way.’
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.