Nebraska’s new Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act forbids all abortions after 20 weeks gestation (except for true medical emergencies). It is supported by decades of evidence about the unborn child’s pain sensitivity.
Federal laws exist to prevent animal cruelty such as restrictions on how livestock are slaughtered and how animals are used in medical research. Thus a law banning excruciating abortions is something a civilized society should applaud.
Biologically, human pain receptors develop early in gestation, but pain dampeners don’t function til birth. Thus, cutting and stabbing a day old “born” baby would actually hurt less than cutting and stabbing one at 20 weeks in the womb.
The recognition of pain perception in the preterm infant and fetus has led to changes in anesthesia standards with improved surgical outcomes. Up until the late 1980’s preterm infants were not given anesthesia or analgesia with surgical procedures. Today it is routine to provide anesthesia to not only preterm infants as early as 23 weeks but also to fetus- in-utero surgical procedures.
Because they lack pain-inhibiting mechanisms, premature infants– at the same gestational age as late abortions– require higher concentrations of drugs to maintain effective surgical anesthesia. The magnitude of their stress hormone response is 3 to 5 times greater than for adults undergoing similar surgery.
AP news coverage of the new Nebraska law has ignored these standard medical practices of using anesthesia on preemies, and omits the plethora of neonatal experts and pain studies that have created the scientific record.
However, this is not a bill passed merely on pro-life political will. Noted “personally pro-choice” pain expert, Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand, has often testified for Congress on the dramatic evidence that children in the womb are equipped to feel pain, and how that sensitivity is exhibited.
- Hormonal markers of pain perception are seen at 7 weeks gestation.
- The anatomy of pain signal transmission and perception is present by 20 weeks gestation.
Anand was among the many academics and clinicians who testified about fetal pain during eight years of hearings on the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and for the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act of 2006, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (KS) and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ).
The federal bill sought to alert abortion-seeking women about fetal pain and to allow them to anesthetize the unborn during abortion. It was not voted on in the U.S. Senate, and in the House it garnered a vote of 250-161 and failed to reach the 2/3 needed for passage.