The most fulfilling, if the most challenging year of my medical career was spent working in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast. Babies do not differentiate between day and night, either at their time of arrival, or when they get ill. Sleep was a rare luxury in those days.
I saw at first hand these wee scraps of humanity as they fought for their lives, and fight they did. Even those of 23 or 24 weeks gestation felt pain, hated me for jabbing and poking them, and even though the endotracheal tube rendered them mute, they screamed silently. They hated needles, and tubes of all types, they loved being petted, they yawned and stretched, smiled and frowned. They especially responded to their parents voices. Some even showed personality traits, which parents used to tell us, when they came back for the Christmas party every year, endured outside of the hospital.
That these small, totally dependent individuals are full members of the human family, imbued with human dignity, and deserving of all the rights and entitlements of any adult is self -evident. Intrauterine life is a continuum, from the moment the mother becomes pregnant till her child is born. There can be no arbitrary cut-off at which it becomes expendable. Our laws should not just protect the planned, the privileged and the perfect, but all of us.