I have written the following article, which has been published in today's Daily Telegraph.
IF A 24 weeks pregnant woman in labour finds herself in a hospital that has no special care baby unit, and no specialist staff, the outcome of her delivery is likely to be very poor indeed.
If the same woman walks into University College Hospital, London, and if her baby is quickly transferred to Prof John Wyatt's special care baby unit, the likely outcome is massively improved.
It's the postcode lottery of life in today's NHS. There are 180 neonatal units in England - nowhere near enough - and according to a National Audit Office report each unit had to close its doors an average of 52 times during 2006-07.
The UCH report published yesterday detailed the excellent survival rates for babies born at the unit in 2000. It is now 2008 and many units across the world are reporting even better outcomes.
The ability for pre-term babies delivered in specialist units to survive from an earlier age demonstrates the speed at which science in this field is developing, and reinforces the argument for the upper limit on abortion to be reduced from 24 to 20 weeks.
It is well worth reminding ourselves, also, that the emergency delivery at 24 weeks occurs due to health problems with either mother or baby, and the doctors will be dealing with a variety of complex issues. In contrast, an aborted baby is more usually a healthy baby.
In a few weeks Parliament will be voting on whether or not to reduce the limit. We know this is the wish of 72 per cent of the population; however, the people's will is not always represented as it should be in this place; ideology sometimes plays a greater role.
Yesterday's report on neonatal survival rates, along with resounding evidence produced by the world's leading foetal pain expert, Professor K J S Anand, that a foetus feels pain from quite an early stage - certainly at 20 weeks - makes the recent science and technology committee report redundant. It also serves to highlight the selective way in which the evidence was presented.
The report used evidence regarding the survival rates of babies born across the UK, regardless of where they were born, and averaged out the figures.
In the words of Professor Anand, "science is an ever-rolling movie, whereas legislation is simply a snapshot in time. Legislation must take into account the evolving nature of science''.
I couldn't agree more. However, with the factual evidence we now have, there can be no reason why any MP could, with all conscience when the vote comes, agree to the 24-week limit.
It's not an issue of women's rights or pro-life, the question is: are we a decent and humane society, or aren't we?
How our lawmakers respond to this new scientific evidence will provide us with an answer.
Commentary - The Daily Telegraph, Friday 1st February 2008.