Bioethics News

Abortion survivors. The fate of babies who survive abortions at over 20 weeks gestation

“…they are usually left in the operating theatre until they die; if not, their life is ended by lethal injection or by suffocating them.”

In many countries, abortion is legal in various circumstances at or after week 20 of pregnancy. It is not rare for children to be born alive in these cases, since according to the World Health Organisation, the limit of viability for premature babies is week 22 of pregnancy or 500 grams in weight.

If children are born alive after one of these abortions —known as an abortion survivorsthey are usually left in the operating theatre until they die; if not, their life is ended by lethal injection or by suffocating them. The remains are then disposed of as medical waste (European Centre for Law & Justice. Late term abortion and neonatal infanticide in Europe. Petition to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, June 2015).

Data on the number of abortion survivors

According to data from the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (114; 639-642, 2007), around 10% of children survive abortions at 23 weeks of pregnancy, so it is not uncommon for the abovementioned events to occur.

In Canada, 662 children were born alive after failed abortions between 2000 and 2011 (“Termination of pregnancy, affecting fetus and newborn”).  In the United States between 2001 and 2010, this figure was 362.000.

In 12 late abortions carried out In Norway between 2010 and 2011, some of the babies were born alive (http://www.newsinenglish.no/2014/01/02/total-ban-on-late-term-abortions/). As a result of the findings, Norway prohibited abortion after 22 weeks.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.