Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why a 20-Week Ban is Needed to Avoid Aborting Viable Infants

With 20-week abortion bans on the table nationwide, and HuffPo's readers' knickers in a twist because the mean old right-to-lifers want to treat born-alive babies as babies rather than as medical waste, it's time we looked how reasonable it is to look on aborting after 20 weeks is or is not killing what would be a viable infant if delivered alive.

What I'd like to look at first his how certain we are of gestational age in the first place.

This article addresses errors in estimating gestational age: "The accuracy of ultrasound in predicting gestational age gets worse as the pregnancy advances. By 20 weeks, ultrasound is accurate only to within plus or minus two weeks, and by the third trimester, its accuracy falls to plus or minus 3 weeks."

Ultrasound is the most common method of estimating gestational age in abortion practice. Many women are going in for late abortions because they'd lost track of their cycles and weren't sure they were pregnant at all, so the LNMP method of dating is lost with these women. The doctors are having to rely almost entirely on ultrasound.

Of course, the errors can be even greater. Here are some cases of abortion doctors miscalculating gestation age: a supposedly 21-week baby who turned out to be 30 weeks, a supposedly 11-week baby that turned out to be 27 weeks, a baby that was believed to be about 12 weeks and turned out to be 28 weeks, and a supposedly 6-week baby that turned out to be 26 weeks. I'll recognize, however, that these are unusual screw-ups. I'll just focus on being within the margin of error for a doctor who is taking reasonable care.

Now let's take a look at preemie survival rates. When I originally wrote about this topic, I found preemie survival rates here:

  • 22 weeks: 0-10% survival rate
  • 23 weeks: 10-35% survival rate
  • 24 weeks: 40-70% survival rate
  • 25 weeks: 50-80% survival rate
  • 26 weeks: 80-90% survival rate
  • 27 weeks: greater than 90% survival rate
New research, however, takes into account whether or not the youngest infants are provided with NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) care. (Read the abstract here. Full article available only to subscribers.) They found significantly higher survival rates for younger infants who were provided with treatment rather than just comfort care. This article summarized the findings and noted that survival for 22 week babies provided with actual treatment was 23%. For 23 week babies provided with care, survival was 33% -- far closer to the upper end of the wide range of previous estimates.

So now let's take ultrasound margins of error into account, along with the new information about survival for babies that are actually cared for rather than just keeping them comfortable and waiting for them to die.

Even with a properly performed ultrasound, a 20 week abortion can actually mean the death of a 22-week child who had a 23% chance of survival. Abortion facilities are willing to do abortions far past 20 weeks.
Some facilities openly advertise elective abortions to 26 weeks -- babies that have an 80-90% chance of survival, and who may actually be three weeks older than estimated. They might be as old as 29 weeks, with a greater than 90% chance of survival. Of course, of you are deft with the in-utero lethal injection, or if you wrap any live-born infants in a towel and stick them in a closet, as the abortion lobby insists is appropriate, they have a 0% chance of survival.