Yesterday the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The bill now goes to the Texas Senate, where it will be voted on, and if passed, sent to Gov. Rick Perry to be signed into law, unless Democrats are able to effectively filibuster it to death.
In many ways the bill’s purpose and structure is similar to H.R. 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. (It is currently sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee.) The bill aims to ban abortions that cause pain in unborn children, which some doctors think could be around the 20-week mark in a pregnancy.
But apparently the Associated Press didn’t find that fact to be important enough to report. Instead, it referred to the bill as “one of the nation's most wide-ranging packages of abortion restrictions.” In another AP wire that was published by USA Today, the bill was described as “some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country” that were passed by “Republicans armed with Bible verses.” Although it is true that many Texas Republican lawmakers did have pamphlets with Psalm 139:13-14 on their desks, the words “armed” and “strictest” are fairly loaded. Reuters also used loaded language, calling the bill “sweeping,” but they at least acknowledged the crux of the legislation – that unborn children feel pain.
None of this should come as a surprise. Along with red herrings and ad hominem attacks, this is a familiar tactic the left uses to combat any restrictions on America's extremely lax abortion policies.
Other examples include a Jezebel article that declares “the concept of fetal pain is bullshit.” It's a fascinating piece, full of superfluous nicknames and profanities, centered on the astounding assertion that “there's no evidence that nonviable fetal pain is a thing.” Even more fascinating, however, is that the author, Katie J.M. Baker, doesn’t cite one ounce of scientific evidence to support her claim. Instead, she awkwardly transitions into an incoherent rant against Republicans.
But despite the left's panic, there is a strong case to be made that unborn children feel pain by 20 weeks.
In a 1999 article published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr. Vivette Glover and Dr. Nicholas M. Fisk explain a key fact:
The most important evidence [of fetal pain] is anatomical. For the fetus to feel pain, it is necessary for the requisite nociceptive pathways to be developed. This involves neural connections between peripheral receptors and the spinal cord, upward transmission via the spinal cord to the thalamus, and from there to the outer cerebral layers.
Among the scientific jargon lies a key word – “nociception,” which has to do with nociceptive neurons. These “generate trains of action potentials in response to painful stimuli, and the frequency of firing signals the intensity of the pain.” In other words, they are what make pain painful. Glover and Fisk say that “most incoming pathways, including nociceptive ones, are routed through the thalamus and, as stated above, penetrate the subplate zone from about 17 weeks” into a pregnancy.
Now it’s true we might never know for sure exactly when an unborn child feels pain and to what extent. But Glover, Fisk, and others conclude that it is very possible pain is felt by at least 20 weeks. “Given the anatomical evidence, it is possible that the fetus can feel pain from 20 weeks and is caused distress by interventions from as early as 15 or 16 weeks. This sets a limit to the earliest stage that analgesia might be considered,” according to Glover and Fisk. They don't suggest that abortions should cease, but instead recommend that painkillers be administered to children about to be aborted.
The point here is that there is doubt. As a surprisingly fair article at the Daily Beast points out, even doctors who oppose the idea of fetal pain still conclude that there is no official answer. Considering the ramifications of being wrong—that an innocent, unborn child could feel horrific pain—it is morally reprehensible to gamble on this.
At the end of Glover's and Fisk’s article, they mention that a British Act of Parliament (the Protection of Animals Act of 1954) was enacted that required animals to undergo anesthesia if they were being operated on. In the UK, even frogs and fish are required to be anesthetized from possible suffering due to invasive procedures. Here in America, why not human beings?
Given that H.R. 1797 has an exception for the health of the mother for “reasonable medical judgment” and, most recently, an exception for rape and incest if the crime is reported “at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency,” the panic from the pro-abortion side is an empty shell. Whatever happens with the Texas bill or H.R. 1797, the façade of viability to justify abortion is being exposed through the phoniness and ineptitude of the current arguments against these bills.