The U.S. Senate heard from medical experts on Tuesday about the scientific evidence that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks or earlier.
The Senate is considering a piece of legislation named the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks when scientific evidence shows unborn babies can feel pain.
While abortion activists say unborn babies can’t feel pain until later in pregnancy, a leading U.S. neonatologist testified that a majority of the medical evidence indicates that unborn babies can feel severe pain at 20 weeks or earlier, according to the Catholic News Agency.
Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told the Senate committee that “anesthesiologists, and surgeons use pain medication” at the 20 week stage, “because it’s supported by the literature completely.”
“The standard of care for NICUs requires attention to and treatment of neonatal pain,” she said. “There is no reason to believe that a born infant will feel pain any differently than that same infant if he or she were still in utero.”
“I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to a horrific procedure such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection,” Malloy added.
Generally, 24 weeks has been considered a baby’s viability point for decades; however, newer studies indicate that babies are surviving outside the womb as early as 20 weeks, Malloy pointed out.
In 2009, researchers with the American Medical Association studied more than 300,000 babies aged 20 to 24 weeks post-conception, Malloy said at the hearing. The study found that even the youngest babies could survive outside the womb, and their chances of living increased from 10 percent at 20 weeks to 85 percent at 24 weeks.
These children “are moving, reacting, and developing right before our eyes in the neonatal intensive care unit,” she said. “Given these survival numbers, the NICU commonly cares for infants born in this gestational age range. We can easily witness their humanity, as well as their experiences with pain.”
Angelina B. Nguyen, J.D. of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, testified that abortion activists are using a 2005 study to claim that unborn babies do not feel pain at 20 weeks, but most scientific evidence shows otherwise.
Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into fetal pain. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain.
He has testified before Congress in the past 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.” Researchers also have found that unborn babies respond to touch as early as six weeks.
He and his colleagues Dr. Vincent J. Collins and Thomas J. Marzen wrote, “The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child’s development in the womb.”
“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.
Further research showed that hormone levels in unborn babies decrease when pain-relievers are supplied, LifeNews previously reported.
A dozen states already have passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
It also has wide public support. A national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger. Only 30% said they would oppose such a law.