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The evidence of fetal painWith the advent of sonograms and live-action ultrasound images, neonatologists and nurses are able to see unborn babies at 20 weeks gestation react physically to outside stimuli such as sound, light and touch. The sense of touch is so acute that even a single human hair drawn across an unborn baby's palm causes the baby to make a fist.
Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on tiny unborn babies have seen those babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions.
“The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies,” explains Steven Calvin, M.D., perinatologist, chair of the Program in Human Rights Medicine, University of Minnesota, where he teaches obstetrics.
Medical facts of fetal painAnatomical studies have documented that the body’s pain network—the spino-thalamic pathway—is established by 20 weeks gestation.
• “At 20 weeks, the fetal brain has the full complement of brain cells present in adulthood, ready and waiting to receive pain signals from the body, and their electrical activity can be recorded by standard electroencephalography (EEG).” — Dr. Paul Ranalli, neurologist, University of Toronto
• An unborn baby at 20 weeks gestation “is fully capable of experiencing pain. … Without question, [abortion] is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure.” — Robert J. White, M.D., PhD., professor of neurosurgery, Case Western University
Unborn babies have heightened sensitivitiesUnborn babies at 20 weeks development actually feel pain more intensely than adults. This is a “uniquely vulnerable time, since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop,” according to Dr. Ranalli.
“Having administered anesthesia for fetal surgery, I know that on occasion we need to administer anesthesia directly to the fetus, because even at these early gestational ages the fetus moves away from the pain of the stimulation,” stated David Birnbach, M.D., president of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology and self-described as “pro-choice,” in testimony before the U.S. Congress.
Given the medical evidence that unborn babies experience pain, compassionate people are viewing abortion more and more as an inhumane and intolerable brutality against defenseless human beings.
The unborn baby at 20 weeksFetal development is already quite advanced at 20 weeks gestation:
• The skeleton is complete and reflexes are present at 42 days.
• Electrical brain wave patterns can be recorded at 43 days. This is usually ample evidence that “thinking” is taking place in the brain.
• The fetus has the appearance of a miniature baby, with complete fingers, toes and ears at 49 days.
• All organs are functioning—stomach, liver, kidney, brain—and all systems are intact at 56 days.
• By 20 weeks, the unborn child has hair and working vocal cords, sucks her thumb, grasps with her hands and kicks. She measures 12 inches.
Abortion at 20 weeksDespite the unborn child’s advanced development at 20 weeks, the following painful abortion procedures are used:
• Partial-birth abortion (D&X): The unborn baby is delivered feet first, except for the head, which is punctured at the base of the skull with a sharp object. The brain is then suctioned out, killing the child. (This method was outlawed in the United States in 2007.)
• Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): Sharp-edged instruments are used to grasp, twist and tear the baby’s body into pieces, which are then removed from the womb.
• Saline abortion: Salt water is injected into the womb through the mother’s abdomen. The unborn baby swallows this fluid, is poisoned and dies in a process that sometimes takes 24 hours. The toxic saline solution causes severe burns over the unborn child’s entire body.
Minnesota law recognizes fetal pain
MCCL helped to pass Minnesota’s Woman’s Right to Know law in 2003, which, among other things, informs women that their unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation. MCCL also strongly supported the Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act, which became state law in 2005. The law requires that abortionists and referring physicians inform women that pain-reducing medication is available for their unborn baby. Pregnant women must sign a form to either request or refuse the administration of pain-reducing drugs to their unborn child prior to an abortion.
MCCL has produced a brochure about fetal pain, which is available to download or to order.
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