by Steven Ertelt
February 17, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In a rare dispute on Congressional legislation, abortion advocacy groups are divided on whether or not to oppose new legislation that would tell women that unborn children feel severe pain during a late-term abortion.
Under the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which enjoys considerable support from pro-life groups, abortion practitioners must tell women about the pain a baby experiences during an abortion and offer them a chance to have anesthesia administered to the unborn child prior to the abortion.
While Planned Parenthood and other leading pro-abortion groups oppose the bill, NARAL has indicated it will not.
"Pro-choice Americans have always believed that women deserve access to all the information relevant to their reproductive health decisions," NARAL president Nancy Keenan said in a statement.
"For some women, that includes information related to fetal anesthesia options. NARAL … does not intend to oppose this legislation," Keenan added.
Keenan also said that her group is more focus on other abortion battles, including stopping Senate approval of President Bush’s pro-life judicial nominees.
Keenan told the New York Times on Wednesday that are "bigger issues to fight" than the unborn pain bill. "We are standing strong in the next Supreme Court battle," she added.
Yet, NARAL’s Montana affiliate is opposing a similar bill that has been proposed in the state legislature there.
In an alert to its members, the group called the state version "a legislative mandate to treat women in Montana as experimental test subjects."
The dispute has one leading pro-life advocate saying he believes NARAL is worried backing the bill will hurt how the group is viewed by the general public.
"It appears that NARAL has concluded that opposing the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act would be so bad for the organization’s public image, that they are willing to acquiesce in Congress enacting a statute that will regulate abortionists nationwide," National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson told LifeNews.com.
The lack of opposition from NARAL makes pro-life Senator Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican who is sponsoring the bill, much more optimistic that it will pass.
Meanwhile, a representative of an affiliate with the nation’s largest abortion business says lawmakers should oppose the measure.
Traci Gleason, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told Knight Ridder news service that "Women need healthcare at the doctor’s office, not politics or a government-mandated lecture."
The National Abortion Federation, a trade group of abortion businesses, also opposes the requirement.
"We oppose S. 51 in its current form," the group says, claiming there is "no consensus" on the science behind fetal pain.
However, a leading expert on the pain unborn children experience during pregnancy, Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center, said medical studies conclude that unborn babies are "very likely" to be "extremely sensitive to pain during the gestation of 20 to 30 weeks."
"This is based on multiple lines of evidence," Dr. Anand said. "Not just the lack of descending inhibitory fibers, but also the number of receptors in the skin, the level of expression of various chemicals, neurotransmitters, receptors, and things like that."