Oklahoma Pro-Life Group Lobbies for Abortion-Fetal Pain Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 7, 2011   |   4:53PM   |   Oklahoma City, OK

The statewide pro-life group in Oklahoma is pushing hard for the legislature to approve a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel significant pain.

The legislation is similar to a Nebraska law that is on the books but has not been challenged in court by pro-abortion groups. The 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.

Oklahomans for Life will host a legislative lobby day on Wednesday featuring Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Texas. The event will take place at the state capitol at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

“Urging legislators to support pro-life bills will be the focus of Rose Day,” says Tony Lauinger, the head of the group. “Of particular importance is the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

“This bill, HB 1888, by Rep. Pam Peterson and Sen. Clark Jolley, would restrict abortions after that point in pregnancy when anatomical, behavioral, and physiological evidence shows that the developing unborn baby is capable of feeling pain (20 weeks after fertilization),” he explained. “Please urge your legislators to support HB 1888, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

“Come hear Abby Johnson’s compelling story of how participating in an ultrasound-guided abortion changed her forever – and the reaction that her becoming pro-life caused in the abortion industry and in the press,” Lauinger added.

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 show evidence for it. [related]

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.

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.