What does that mean for women?
A new study has revealed a small number of babies are surviving outside the womb from 22 weeks.
Doctors have previously thought this was impossible, with most medical experts citing 24 weeks as a viable age for premature newborns.
The study of thousands of premature births, published in the The New England Journal of Medicine, found a tiny minority of babies born at 22 weeks survived after medical attention with few health problems, although most died or suffered serious health issues.
According to the New York Times, the discovery has sparked a debate whether to lower the age of viability in the United States to 22 weeks — a move that could have implications on the abortion debate.
The US Supreme Court states abortions must be permitted if the fetus cannot survive outside the womb. While that is generally accepted as 24 weeks, the new research could see it lowered to 22.
In Australia, abortion laws differ between the states. In some states, regulation is vague and open to interpretation.
Victoria allows abortions up to 24 weeks, and after if two doctors agree. Most other states permit abortions up to 23 weeks, others 20.
Most laws have caveats if the wellbeing of the mother is threatened.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found 7.7 per cent of births occurred at less than 37 weeks. Only 0.8 per cent of births occurred between 20 and 27 weeks.
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