Baby dies one day AFTER surviving abortion attempt
Baby boy survives for nearly two days after abortion
A baby boy abandoned by doctors to die after a botched abortion was found alive nearly a day later.
By Simon Caldwell
Published: 4:29PM BST 28 Apr 2010
The 22-week infant died one day later in intensive care at a hospital in the mother's home town of Rossano in southern Italy.
The mother, pregnant for the first time, had opted for an abortion after prenatal scans suggested that her baby was disabled.
However, the infant survived the procedure, carried out on Saturday in the Rossano Calabro hospital, and was left by doctors to die.
He was discovered alive the following day - some 20 hours after the operation - by Father Antonio Martello, the hospital chaplain, who had gone to pray beside his body.
He found that the baby, wrapped in a sheet with his umbilical cord still attached, was moving and breathing.
The priest raised the alarm and doctors immediately arranged for the infant to be taken to a specialist neo-natal unit at the neighbouring Cosenza hospital, where he died on Monday morning.
Italian police are investigating the case for "homicide" because infanticide is illegal in Italy.
The law means that doctors have had an obligation to try to preserve the life of the child once he had survived the abortion.
The Italian government is also considering an inquiry into the conduct of the hospital staff.
Eugenia Roccella, the under-secretary of state in the health department, on Wednesday night promised a government inquiry into the incident.
"The minister of health will send inspectors to the hospital in Rossano Calabro to investigate what actually happened, and to see if the Law 194, which prohibits abortion when there is a possibility of the foetus living separately from the mother, and permits it only when the continuation of the pregnancy would result in life-threatening danger to the mother."
She said that if initial information is correct, "this would be a case of deliberate abandonment of a seriously premature neonate, possibly also with some form of disability, an act contrary to any sense of human compassion but also of any accepted professional medical practice".
She added: "We must remember that a baby, once born, is an Italian citizen equal to all the others, and is entitled to all fundamental rights, including the right to health and therefore to be given full support."
The case has reignited controversy on the legality of abortion in the Roman Catholic country.
It could also raise questions in Britain over the legal upper limits for abortion and the viability of the foetus - or its ability to survive outside of the womb.
A spokesman for the ProLife Alliance said: "There cannot be anybody in the world who is not horrified by a story like this nor anybody in the UK who would not support a massive reduction in the upper limit for abortion."
Most abortions at 22 weeks simply involve the induction of the birth which normally results in the death of a young foetus.
The case is causing uproar in Italy because it is the second involving a foetus of that age surviving the procedure in just three years.
The other involved a baby in Florence who weighed just 17oz when he was aborted at 22 weeks because of a suspected genetic disorder, but lived for three days.
Since 1978, abortion has been available on demand in Italy in the first three months of pregnancy but is restricted to specific circumstances - such as disability- in the second trimester. The government is considering a review of the working of the laws.
The case also comes as figures in Britain revealed last week that the number of babies born weighing only 2lbs has more than doubled in just two years.
Yet the proportion of tiny babies born stillborn has nearly halved, the health service statistics have shown.
The figures do not reveal at what stage the babies were born but a child weighing under 2lbs is likely to have been born at least three months early.
They will inevitably include some born alive at an age when they could, in other circumstances, have been aborted.
More than 200,000 abortions are performed each year, most for non-medical reasons within the legal upper limit of 24 weeks gestation.
The increasing number of babies surviving below 24 weeks, partly because of advances in medicine, has led to widespread calls for the legal upper limit to be further reduced.
Attempts to lower the limit failed in Parliament in 2008.
In 2005 a baby boy in Manchester was born alive at 24 weeks after surviving three attempts to abort him. He is now a five-year-old schoolboy.