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Abortion: Every sixth foetus showed signs of life

Midwives’ chairwoman says ‘a sorrowful situation’.

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For the first time ever in Denmark, a survey has shown how many foetuses show signs of life following a late term termination, according to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Previously, conventional wisdom has suggested that 10 per cent of foetuses gasped or showed other signs of life following a late term abortion between the 12th and 22nd week of pregnancy.

But statistics from Denmark’s second largest maternity clinic at the Aarhus University Hospital Skejby show that out of 70 late terminations between August 2011 and November 2012, 11 – or 16 per cent - showed signs of life.

Translated into national figures from 2010, during which 877 foetuses were terminate after the 12th week, the statistical figure for life signs in aborted foetuses would be 140.

Midwives surprised

The Chair of the Midwife Association and Member of The Ethical Council Lillian Bondo says she is surprised at the figures.

“But I get the feeling from my colleagues that handling the issue is not a major problem, although it is an unhappy situation,” Bondo tells Kristeligt Dagblad.

“It requires a good level of information and agreements and procedures on how to gently and calmly treat a foetus that is born with signs of life so that it does not suffer,” she says.

Denmark has free abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy. Late term abortions are only allowed in Denmark if the foetus is found to have a serious illness, or if special social circumstances make the mother unfit – for example a very young woman.

Bondo says a report is needed on conditions that can be seen as least upsetting for the terminated foetus.

The Danish Infant Death Association says parents should be given the possibility of choosing a potassium chloride injection to stop the foetal heart before a termination in order to ensure that the foetus is stillborn.

The method is in use in the United States and elsewhere.

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Edited by Julian Isherwood