Compassion needed for pain-capable unborn children
The following is a letter to the editor that was published on May 8, 2018, in the Duluth News Tribune.
Jennifer Boyle's April 29 letter criticizes recent federal legislation that would protect unborn children after 20 weeks, when substantial scientific evidence indicates they can experience pain. Her criticisms of this important measure are way off the mark.
First, she says that the vast majority of abortions happen before 20 weeks. True, but thousands of unborn children are still killed each year (nationwide) after that point, often via a dismemberment procedure. Those lives matter—and so does their suffering.
Second, Boyle says that "neurological function necessary to perceive pain does not occur until 29 to 30 weeks." This view is based on the idea that a functioning cerebral cortex is needed for pain perception. That idea is contradicted by multiple lines of evidence.
"Neurological findings indicate that 'mature' pain perception is largely localized to the thalamus," testified neurobiologist Dr. Maureen Condic before Congress. "The spino-thalamic circuits required for pain perception are established between 12-18 weeks post[-conception]."
Third, Boyle writes that "abortions after 20 weeks almost always happen when something has gone terribly wrong." That's false. Even a study published by the Guttmacher Institute, which opposes any limits on abortion, acknowledges that "data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment."
Most of the abortions we are talking about are purely elective.
Of course, many late abortions do involve difficult cases. But human beings diagnosed in utero with serious diseases or disabilities should be treated with dignity and respect. In tragic situations like the one Boyle recounts (a terminal diagnosis), perinatal hospice is a loving alternative to intentional killing.
Tearing off the arms and legs and crushing the skulls of pain-capable unborn children is not, as Boyle absurdly claims, "health care." It's barbarism. A just and compassionate society has to be better than this.