By Hilary White

LONDON, January 8, 2008 ( – A baby girl born at 23 weeks gestation who was brought home recently by her mother, has re-opened the debate in the UK over the legal gestational age limit for abortion. Sarah Slater, the child’s mother, told media, “We’re so glad to have Lexie home with us at last and it just shows how outmoded our laws on abortion are.”

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Slater said, “Some mothers-to-be would be able to legally terminate their pregnancy at 23 weeks – yet my Lexie is living proof babies can survive being born so prematurely.” Under British abortion laws, a child who is deemed healthy can be killed by abortion at the request of the mother up to 24 weeks gestation. If the child is judged to be potentially disabled, she can be killed at any time up to full term.

After only 22 weeks gestation, Lexie Slater-Folksman weighed only 1 lb, 8 oz. at delivery and was cared for by neo-natal experts with treatments including laser surgery for her underdeveloped eyes and a respirator to help her breathe. Lexie is now five months old and is at home with her parents.

“I never realized a baby would be so well developed at 23 weeks and they do have a chance of life,” Slater continued.

Anthony Ozimic, political secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), told, “We welcome medical advances in saving both prematurely-born babies and unborn children, not least because the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children need special care and protection both before and after birth.”

But Ozimic noted that the issue in law is not whether the age limit for abortion is too low or too high, but that unborn children of any age can be killed at will.

“From a political perspective,” Ozimic said, “it is important to note that the viability of unborn children should not be used as a guide for reforming the law on abortion, because all unborn children have a right to equal protection against abortion.”

While Lexie’s case is being presented as an argument for lowering the legal gestational age limit for abortion, SPUC has consistently argued that such efforts have backfired in the past to create an even worse legislative situation. A previous attempt resulted, through the addition of amendments in the House of Commons, in the removal of all restrictions on abortion for disabled children.


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