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A 26-week-old preemie seeks human touch.Figure 1

(LifeSiteNews) — A study published last month found that the survival rate of “extremely preterm” infants significantly improved over the past decade.

The rate of survival (to hospital discharge) for infants born at 22 to 28 weeks of pregnancy increased from 76 percent during the 2008-2012 period to 78.3 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study led by Edward F. Bell, M.D., of the University of Iowa.

This amounts to a survival rate of now almost four in five babies born between 22 and 28 weeks. 

The study, which was published January 18 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), assessed more than 10,000 infants born at 19 medical centers across the U.S. It found that survival rate improved dramatically from the earliest-born infants to the latest-born infants who were studied: Only 11 percent of babies born at 22 weeks survived to discharge, compared with 94 percent of those born at 28 weeks, according to an NIH advisory on the study.

It is noteworthy, however, that another 2019 study from the University of Iowa found that 64% of 22-week babies born alive, for whom parents requested resuscitation, survived to leave the hospital.

The developmental outcomes of the surviving babies included in the JAMA-published study were also examined at two years corrected age (their age since their expected birth date). At this age, almost 49 percent “had no or mild neurodevelopmental impairment,” 29.3 percent “had moderate” such impairment, and for 21.2% of babies the neurodevelopmental impairment was “severe.”

The finding of improved survival rates of extremely preterm babies is significant because abortion laws often have a built-in cutoff point of the age of fetal viability, when babies are considered likely to survive outside the womb.

The significance of survival ages of preterm infants for the abortion debate has been widely acknowledged for years. In 2007, when baby Amillia Taylor, born at 21 weeks and six days’ gestation, set a record for the youngest-known child to survive premature birth, ABC anchor Charles Gibson called her “a tiny miracle that raises big questions in the debate over abortion.”

Remarkably, Amillia’s mother shared with The Daily Mail, “It was the first lie I had ever told in my life” when she allowed the doctor to wrongly believe her child was two weeks further developed than she really was. She “knew it could make the difference between life or death,” since “legally in Florida, the doctors would not even attempt to revive” a baby before 24 weeks.

More recently, two more babies set world records for earliest premature births to survive in close succession: Richard Scott William Hutchinson was born on June 5, 2020, after just 21 weeks and two days; and one month afterward, on July 5, 2020, Curtis Means was born at 21 weeks and one day.

The recently published NIH-funded study in combination with record-setting births of recent years indicate the general age of viability is shifting with the help of modern technology.

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