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The current 24-week limit for abortion should stay, say doctors

Research published in today's BMJ concludes that over a recent 12-year period there was no significant improvement in the survival of babies born before 24 weeks gestation. Given this new data, the BMA is calling on MPs to vote against any attempt to reduce the 24-week upper time limit for abortion.

Commenting on the research, the Chairman of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee, Dr Tony Calland, said today:

"Today's research in the BMJ by Professor Field gives further weight to the BMA's view that there is no scientific justification for lowering the 24-week abortion limit. The results of this study are very important as this is the most up-to-date research in the UK investigating the survival of very premature babies.

"Although the vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester there are still women who need abortion services later on in their pregnancy. This applies particularly to very young women or those close to the menopause who may not realise they are pregnant. To lower the abortion limit would leave a number of women in dire circumstances.

"The BMA also believes that the 1967 Abortion Act should be amended so that first trimester abortion would be available on the same basis of informed consent as other treatment and therefore without the need for two doctors' signatures."