Thousands of babies are being aborted every year for improperly diagnosed scans and minor, treatable birth defects.
Many thousands of women given a wrong diagnosis each year will choose to wait to see if they go on to miscarry naturally but others will take the option of terminating the pregnancy.
Late terminations have been performed in recent years because the babies had club feet, official figures show.
Other babies were destroyed because they had webbed fingers or extra digits.
Such defects can often be corrected with a simple operation or physiotherapy.
Researchers said that the possibility of an ‘inadvertent termination’ was the ‘worst possible outcome for any woman’ and called for the guidelines used to determine miscarriages to be changed immediately.
Professor Tom Bourne, of Imperial College London, said: ‘For most women, sadly there is nothing we can do to prevent a miscarriage.
‘But we do need to make sure we don’t make things worse by intervening unnecessarily in ongoing pregnancies. We hope our work means that the guidelines to determine miscarriage are made as watertight as we would expect for determining death at any other stage of life.’
Around a third of the 500,000 miscarriages a year in the UK are confirmed via ultrasound scans of the fetus and the sac that envelops it in the womb.
The scans from very early pregnancies are particularly hard to read and a second scan will often be carried out to ensure accuracy if a miscarriage is suspected.
Dr Peter Saunders, from the Pro Life Alliance Alive and Kicking, said: ‘Mistakes are made in prenatal diagnosis and pressure is then put on parents to abort.
‘The tragedy is that then totally normal babies are aborted.
One U.K woman turned down an abortion, but had to be induced three weeks later on December 27 last year due to pregnancy complications.
At 2lbs 7oz Jayden was just six inches long and needed specialist hospital treatment for three months but survived.
Now Jayden is eating well, and his parents describe him as strong, alert and enjoys playing with his 16-month-old sister Skye.
This case flies in the face of the government constantly denying that babies do not live if born before 24 weeks.
‘Jayden’s survival underlines how wrong Parliament’s decision was in not reducing the time limit to 22 or 20 weeks.
‘The Government is in effect ignoring public opinion as the majority believe the abortion limit should be lowered.’
Ethical groups fear parents are opting for abortions because they are not told of the support and help available if they continued with the pregnancy.
Details of the terminations emerged as new figures revealed an alarming rise in the use of an abortion pill.
In total, there were more than 2000 abortions in England and Wales for medical problems with the fetus, with 147 performed after 24 weeks.
It is the first time in nearly a decade that the Government has released data on abortions performed on the grounds of disability.
Julia Millington, spokeswoman for the ProLife Alliance, said: ‘This is a great victory for transparency and freedom of speech and we are delighted that full information about the justification for late abortions is now being made available in the same detail as it was in 2001.’
A study of more than 1,000 British women estimated that around one in 200 who are deemed to have miscarried because they have an apparently empty gestational sac of over 2cm will actually still be pregnant.
These women would benefit from waiting for a second scan a week or so later that would be expected to reveal the foetus was alive.
A further study revealed this figure could be much higher, as the measurements taken from the scans vary by as much as 20 per cent between medical staff.
This means that the size of an apparently empty gestational sac could be overestimated, and miss the cut-off point for a second scan, increasing the possibility of the mother undergoing a wrongful termination.
Mistaken diagnoses can be caused by difficulty in reading the complex scans, old equipment and simple human error.
Dr Mark Hamilton, a consultant gynaecologist at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, said the research reinforced the need for staff to take the greatest care when determining miscarriage, and urged that medical or surgical procedures should be postponed until the outcome of the pregnancy was a ‘certainty’.
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists said a review of its guidelines was already under way and it will take the new findings into account.
Source: Prevent Disease
Image Credits: Flickr