When the British Medical Association met last week, Prof. Stuart Campbell had reason to be optimistic doctors would vote to change the upper limit for abortions due to social reasons from 24 to 20 weeks – after all, stunning 4-D ultrasound images created from a technique he pioneered, showing fetuses stretching, kicking and leaping at 12 weeks, had spawned that debate.
But 77 percent of BMA members voted to continue aborting babies at 24 weeks, a position Campbell believes goes “against British public opinion.”
New ultrasound technology shows 12-week-old unborn child ‘walking’ in womb (Photo: BBC News).
“I was particularly surprised because of the huge success of the [television] program Life Before Birth, which of course used my ultrasound images,” Campbell tells the Glasgow Sunday Herald. “So many people told me that they felt very emotional about it.
“Then there was another program, In The Womb, by National Geographic, which was watched all over Europe and America. Because of the response to these programs and the images they contain, I had thought there was a growing movement towards the recognition of humanity in the womb.
“But despite all the evidence and the explosion of information, the BMA has voted in a way that I would describe as counter-intuitive, to say the least.”
Campbell, a London obstetrician, pioneered the new ultrasound techniques at the Create Health Centre for Reproduction and Advanced Technology. The professor has compiled the images in a book titled “Watch Me Grow.”
As reported by WorldNetDaily, his images show at 12 weeks, an unborn child can stretch, kick and leap around the womb long before the mother can feel movement.
While most doctors thought eyelids were fused until 26 weeks, Campbell’s pictures show the baby open its eyes from 18 weeks.
New technology reveals behavior of unborn (Courtesy Sky News)
A whole range of typical baby behavior and moods can be observed beginning at 26 weeks, including scratching, smiling, crying, hiccuping and sucking.
Smiling was believed to not start until six weeks after birth.
“After 18 weeks, you are beginning to see such an advanced state of development,” says Campbell. “In fact parents, when I show them the images at that stage, tend to say, ‘Wow, it looks like a baby.’ It’s a shock to them and they are overwhelmed by it.”
Following publication of Campbell’s pictures last year, even the 1967 Abortion Act’s author called for the termination cutoff to be set at 22 weeks. A motion in the House of Commons noted the images “illustrate even more compellingly the humanity of the unborn child.”
But Anne Quesney, director of Abortion Rights, dismisses Campbell’s images and praises the BMA’s “compassionate” vote.
“It’s clear the BMA wanted a provision for women to be able to access abortion between 20 and 24 weeks,” she says. “What’s really encouraging is that doctors overwhelmingly voted to retain the upper limit, and this was supported by the Royal College of Nursing.
“I don’t think British public opinion is of [Campbell’s] ilk. We have seen since 1967 extremely strong support for women’s right to choose. Fetuses are not developing any faster now than they did 2000 years ago and I think the use of emotive images is not very helpful.”
Campbell, who supports late abortion in the rare case of severe fetal abnormalities, is not seeking to outlaw abortion, but he would like to see it more closely regulated.
“Obviously it’s an unfortunate occurrence, all too common, and we have to allow women to terminate an unwanted child,” agrees Campbell. “That’s part of the law and I accept it, but only up to 18 weeks.
“To terminate above 18 weeks of gestation,” he says, “when the fetus is showing facial expressions, complex behavioral activity – behaving very much like a baby – I think is really quite barbaric.”
He concludes: “I am very sad that the BMA went this way and I hope the issue will be revisited.”