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Oklahoma House Passes Fetal Pain-Based Abortion Ban

by Steven Ertelt | Oklahoma City, OK | LifeNews.com | 3/10/11 4:43 PM

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The Oklahoma state House has approved legislation that would make the state the next to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel pain.

UltrasoundThe House overwhelmingly approved the bill, House Bill 1888, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would require abortion practitioners to determine the age of an unborn child prior to an abortion and would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks — a clear point in science when unborn children have the ability to feel intense pain. The 94-2 vote came without any questions from lawmakers to debate on the topic.

“People on both sides of the abortion debate should agree that gratuitous suffering of an unborn child is really incompatible with a decent and humane society,” rep. Pan Peterson, a Tulsa Republican, said about the legislation, according to NewsOK. “That’s what this bill does; it shows the humaneness of that unborn child.”

“This is a bill that has caught up with scientific evidence,” Peterson said. “Thirty-eight years ago, it was considered a clump of cells and now we know differently. We can see the development of the child; we do fetal surgery.”

Reps. Emily Virgin and Jeannie McDaniel, both Democrats, voted against the legislation and five Democrats were absent for the vote and Virgin said she expects a lawsuit will be filed against the bill, even though the first-in-the-nation law Nebraska passed that is similar has not been the subject of a lawsuit. The Nebraska law is credited with driving late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart out of the state — as he now works for a Maryland-based abortion business. http://www.lifenews.com/2010/10/15/state-5554/

The legislation, if it becomes law, is expected to take effect on November 1.

Oklahomans for Life strongly supported the bill and Tony Lauinger, the state president of the group, told LifeNews.com, “HB 1888, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would ban the aborting of an unborn child who is capable of feeling pain. Medical evidence shows that a baby can feel pain by 20 weeks after fertilization. HB 1888 would save lives and would help Oklahomans better understand the humanity of the unborn child.”

SB 547, a companion bill, has been filed in the state Senate.

Peterson said the leading scientists who have researched the development of unborn children say “nerves linking receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate are present no later than 20 weeks.”

“Current law requires more humane treatment of animals than of babies in the womb, yet there is no denying that an unborn child can feel pain and should not be subjected to it,” Peterson said.

The science behind the concept of fetal pain is fully established and Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for it.

He has testified before Congress that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.”

He and his colleagues Dr. Vincent J. Collins and Thomas J. Marzen  were the top researchers to point to fetal pain decades ago. Collins, before his death, was Professor of Anesthesiology at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois and author of Principles of Anesthesiology, one of the leading medical texts on the control of pain.

“The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child’s development in the womb,” they wrote.

“Functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks, but certainly by 13 1/2 weeks of gestation. Sensory nerves, including nociceptors, reach the skin of the fetus before the 9th week of gestation. The first detectable brain activity occurs in the thalamus between the 8th and 10th weeks. The movement of electrical impulses through the neural fibers and spinal column takes place between 8 and 9 weeks gestation. By 13 1/2 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body,” they continued.

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With Zielinski and his colleagues the first to provide the scientific basis for the concept of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center has provided further research to substantiate their work.

“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.