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Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
Protecting the unborn from the pain of abortion
Even those who believe that abortion in most cases is morally permissible should agree that we must not inflict needless suffering on other living things. To do so is cruel and inhumane. We do not consider treating animals in the barbaric way that abortion treats pain-capable unborn human beings. People on both sides of the abortion debate should agree that the gratuitous suffering of the human fetus is incompatible with a decent and humane society.
"Without question, [abortion at 20 weeks] is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure." — Dr. Robert J. White Neurosurgeon, Case Western Reserve University
A wealth of anatomical, behavioral and physiological evidence shows that the developing unborn child (i.e., the human fetus) is capable of experiencing tremendous pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization.
Anatomical: Pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body by no later than 16 weeks after fertilization, and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks. For unborn children, says Dr. Paul Ranalli, a neurologist at the University of Toronto, 20 weeks is a “uniquely vulnerable time, since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop.” As a result, unborn babies at this age probably feel pain more intensely than adults.
Behavioral: By 8 weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. By 20 weeks post-fertilization, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human—for example, by recoiling. Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on unborn children have seen those babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions. In addition, ultrasound technology shows that unborn babies at 20 weeks and earlier react physically to outside stimuli such as sound, light and touch.
Physiological: The application of painful stimuli is associated with significant increases in the unborn child’s stress hormones. During fetal surgery, anesthesia is routinely administered to the unborn baby and is associated with a decrease in stress hormones compared to their level when painful stimuli is applied without such anesthesia. More evidence and complete documentation of fetal pain is available at www.doctorsonfetalpain.com.
The pain of abortion
The most common abortion procedure used after the first trimester of pregnancy, including at 20 weeks, is dilation and evacuation (D & E). This method involves dismembering the unborn child. The U.S. Supreme Court (in its 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart decision) describes the D & E procedure as follows: “The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed.”
"The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies." — Dr. Steven CalvinPerinatologist, Chair of the Program in Human Rights and Medicine, University of Minnesota
Fetal pain acknowledged in Minnesota law
Woman's Right to Know requires women considering abortion to be informed that "some experts have concluded that the unborn child feels physical pain after 20 weeks gestation."
The Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act requires women considering abortion after 20 weeks gestation to be informed "whether or not an anesthetic or analgesic would eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child caused by the particular method of abortion to be employed."
Legislation is necessary
The fact of fetal pain is already established in Minnesota law, but pain-sensitive unborn children remain unprotected.
The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks from fertilization in order to protect pain-capable unborn children from excruciating deaths. (There are exceptions when abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or to avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.)
Similar legislation was passed and signed into law in the state of Nebraska in 2010. To date, the Nebraska law has not been challenged in court.
Join MCCL in defending human dignity by working to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
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