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January 22, 1968

A Problem With Prematurity

Author Affiliations

London, England

JAMA. 1968;203(4):304. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140040056021

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To the Editor:—  In the United Kingdom common law allows a pregnancy to be terminated up to 28 weeks under unhappy circumstances. The fetus referred to came from a 14-year-old mentally defective girl who had been raped. She knew nothing of the pregnancy, nor could she tell us anything of its inception. The duration of 24 to 26 weeks was estimated from external evidence. Like Dr. Maxwell, we too think of the distress to women with unwanted pregnancies, especially when they have immature and unfathomable minds. Further, no doubt like Dr. Maxwell, we have watched helplessly while many badly wanted babies die of the respiratory distress syndrome. We try therefore, to take a balanced point of view in equating which is the least of several evils.