Now, I haven't actually read the whole study, but I've glanced at the abstract. It's a cohort study that looks at births of babies between 20 and 26 weeks in the Trent health region in the UK over two time periods: 1994-9 and 2000-5. The study found that although there was a significant increase in the number of surviving babies in 2000-5, this was attributable to an increase in survival rates for babies born at 24 and 25 weeks. There was no significant increase in survival rates for babies born before 24 weeks.
This is an important finding because the House of Commons will soon debate whether to lower the lower the legal cut-off point for most abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. One of the arguments has been that advances in medical science mean that more and more babies born before 24 weeks are surviving. The research shows that this appears not to be the case.
What to do if you're on the side of the debate that wants a reduction to 20 weeks? If you're Nadine Dorries MP, you go in for some textbook fallacious reasoning, relying in particular on ad hominem and argument from incredulity.
No improvement in neo-natal care in twelve years? Really? So where has all the money that has been pumped into neo-natal services gone then? A baby born at 23 weeks today stands no better a chance of living than it did in 1996? This report is the most desperate piece of tosh produced by the pro-choice lobby and it smells of one thing, desperation.
Well, the evidence seems to suggest that a baby born at 23 weeks today really does stand no better chance of living than it did in 1996. It's no good just saying you don't believe it; you need to explain why that interpretation of the evidence is incorrect. Dorries also describes the British Medical Journal as the "trade magazine" of the British Medical Association. Because the BMA funds a pro-choice group, research published in the BMJ can be dismissed as emanating from the "pro-abortion lobby". In fact, the BMJ is a peer-reviewed medical journal, publishing "original scientific studies, review and educational articles, and papers commenting on the clinical, scientific, social, political, and economic factors affecting health." It is something more than a trade magazine, and for Dorries to describe it as such is disingenuous to say the least.
As I say, I have not read the whole paper. For all I know, there may be some problems with it. But Dorries is simply not contributing to a useful debate by dismissing the study out of hand. The paper gives us the evidence, and it is up to us, as a society, to decide what to do about it. We can't do that by falling back on fallacious reasoning that supports our pre-conceptions.
Update: Dorries continues to mis-represent the BMJ paper, writing that "For the BMA to argue that the survival rates of neo nates born 12 years ago should endorse the 24 week limit today, is, as I said yesterday, an act of desperation, but one that suits me and the media opportunities such a biased piece of 'research' provides." First of all, it is not the BMA that is doing the arguing. The research was conducted by a team working in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Leicester. Second, the paper compares data from 1994-9 to data from 2000-5. Where Dorries gets '12 years ago' from is anyone's guess. Again, it is no good simply stating that the work is 'biased'. You need to explain why it is biased. I'm fairly sure that Dorries can't do this.