AARHUS, Denmark, December 18, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In 2009 a Danish couple, Camilla Skovhus and Thomas Mikkelsen, decided to abort their late-term baby after an ultrasound showed that he likely had kidney disorders that might require dialysis and transplants after birth.
Staff at Aarhus Skejby hospital, where the abortion was performed, warned the couple that their baby might be born alive. He was. Their son lived a few hours after birth, dying slowly in his parents’ arms.
The following year the couple was pregnant again, only to be told once again that their son may suffer from the same kidney disorders. Once again the couple opted for a late-term abortion, and once again the child was born alive.
In both cases the couple held the babies, who they named Sejr and Hugo, and took pictures, then buried them in the cemetery. They still feel they did the right thing.
The couple recounted their story to Kristeligt Dagblad in the wake of the release of a study showing that their experience is far from isolated.
For the last 15 months, doctors at Aarhus University Hospital at Skejby have tracked how many babies are born showing signs of life following second-trimester abortions.
Statistics from Denmark’s second largest maternity clinic at the hospital show that out of 70 babies subjected to late-term abortions between August 2011 and November 2012, eleven – or sixteen percent – were born alive.
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Previously, medical professionals estimated only ten percent of infants gasped or showed other signs of life following abortions performed between the 12th and 22nd week of pregnancy.
Denmark allows unrestricted legal abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy. After that, abortions are only permitted if the baby is expected to die shortly after birth due to defects, or if social circumstances cause the state to declare the mother unfit – for example, if the mother is a very young girl. Mothers seeking late term abortions must appeal to the state for special permission.
Peter Øhrstrøm, professor and theorist of science at Aalborg University and former member of the Council of Ethics, told Kristeligt Dagblad that when babies show signs of life after late abortion, it raises fundamental and serious ethical questions about the way permits for late abortion are handled.
“The requirement in the law is that the fetuses that you give permission to abort are not viable,” said Øhrstrøm. “So when there are signs of life in the late-aborted fetuses, it appears that you have some babies that should not have been aborted, and that we should re-look at the rules and practices governing the authorization of late abortion.”
University of Copenhagen professor Birgit Petersson, who just retired after 27 years on Denmark’s Abortion Appeals Board, said the number of babies born alive after abortion is on the rise. She said the solution is simple: A potassium injection to heart of the baby before the abortion begins will ensure the child is born dead.
Said Petersson, “I have sat on the Abortion Appeals Board for decades, and it is only in recent years that problems have emerged. If today it is more likely than before that fetuses are viable, the doctors in those departments need to switch to potassium syringes.”
The number of late-term abortions in Denmark has been rising steadily, from 659 in 2004 to 877 in 2010. If the one in six figure from the Aarhus study bears out, that means an estimated 140 babies were born alive after abortion in 2010 and allowed to die.
“It frightens me,” said Olav Bjørn Petersen, of Aarhus Hospital. “It is crucial, however, to inform and take care of the couple who lands in a situation where an aborted fetus shows signs of life, and make sure, at least, the staff is trained to take care of it.” He said Aarhus has created a special ward where six midwives work only with late abortions.
Camilla Skovhus and Thomas Mikkelsen, whose two sons were born alive after abortions, have followed the debate over whether Denmark should do as Birgit Petersson suggests and ensure more efficient abortions via potassium injection. They’re aware that many people think it would be easier if late abortions were quicker and less painful.
But Skovhus said, “Why should we hurry to help the babies die? It does not make the pain less. The children die no matter what, if they are killed in the stomach or die in the arms of their parents. I can only think that they must be happy that they die together with people who want to take care of them.”
The Danish study was released weeks after LifeSiteNews confirmed with Statistics Canada that nearly 500 babies have been born alive after failed abortions over the past decade in Canada.