23-week premature baby survives: Abortion laws questioned

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The abortion laws in India and UK have termination limits of 24 weeks. A premature baby of less than 23 weeks has survived and is at the heart of anit-abortion campaigns.

‘Our Lexie is proof that abortion laws should be changed,’ say parents of girl born a week short of termination limit

29th December 2008

Baby Lexie Slater-Folksman is being hailed by her proud parents as living proof of their campaign against abortion laws.

Lexie was born prematurely at just 23 weeks – a week before the time limit for termination – yet is winning her five-month battle to survive and is home with her family.
Last May two months before she was born, MPs voted for the upper time limit for abortions to remain at 24 weeks after rejecting proposals to reduce the time limit to as little as 12 weeks.

Anti-abortion campaigners had argued the time limit for termination was too long, saying a baby’s rights should be considered at the point it had the ‘chance of life’.

Lexie was born with crinkled red skin, she weighed less than a bag of sugar and was so premature that her eyes hadn’t even developed properly.

She was immediately put on a life support machine and placed in a special incubator as anxious parents Sarah Slater, 20, and Richard Folksman, 25, were warned she may not pull through.

At just a month old, Lexie was forced to undergo emergency laser surgery on her eyes and spent the next few months being transferred between an oscillator, ventilator and C-PAP machine to help her breathe after she suffered collapsed lungs and developed chronic lung disease.

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But she defied the odds stacked against her, gradually gaining strength, and now weighing a healthy 8lb, baby Lexie, has finally been allowed home to the delight of her parents and two-year-old sister Teegan.

Proud mother Sarah, of Wigan, Greater Manchester said: ‘We’re so glad to have Lexie home with us at last and it just shows how outmoded our laws on abortion are.

‘Some mothers-to-be would be able to legally terminate their pregnancy at 23 weeks – yet my Lexie is living proof babies can survive being born so prematurely.

‘I never realised a baby would be so well developed at 23 weeks and they do have a chance of  life. Lexie is proof the abortion limit should be lowered.

‘I’m so grateful to everyone at the hospital who helped to keep our daughter alive. ‘She’s a little fighter and I can’t imagine life without her.’ Sarah and fiance Richard, a roofer, who have been together for four years, were delighted to discover Sarah was pregnant with their second child in February this year.

But just a week later, Sarah was taken to hospital with severe stomach pains and doctors feared she had suffered an ectopic pregnancy and wasn’t actually carrying a baby at all.

She was forced to undergo tests for polycystic ovaries after a scan revealed her womb was empty, but the couple were relieved when hormone tests confirmed she was pregnant and the baby was so small it hadn’t shown on the scan.

After two days, Sarah was allowed home to her fiance Richard and their daughter Teegan.

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But the family’s problems had only just begun – at just 22 weeks, Sarah was taken into hospital after her waters broke and doctors attempted to halt the labour amid fears her child  would not survive.

But less than a week later, Sarah gave birth to her daughter, more than four months before she was due, only catching a brief glimpse of her tiny 1lb 8oz baby before the girl was taken to intensive care and put on a life support machine.

Sarah said: ‘I never knew babies could be born so early, I was only at 23 weeks.

‘When she came out they showed me a quick glance of her and then put her in a plastic Tesco bag and put a hat on her head.’

Lexie was finally allowed home from hospital last month, a month after she was originally due to be born.

Now six months old, she remains on an oxygen flow machine to help her breathe, and will suffer from chronic lung disease for the rest of her life, but she is gaining strength each day and her proud parents are thrilled to finally have her home.

Mum Sarah said, ‘I don’t know what life would be like without her. I was really worried we wouldn’t have her home by Christmas and that would ruin Christmas for Teegan because we would be at the hospital.

‘Lexie is an inspiration – it just goes to show that you should never give up hope.’

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