Oklahoma Committee Approves Fetal Pain-Based Abortion Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 23, 2011   |   1:39PM   |   Oklahoma City, OK

An Oklahoma state House committee 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.

House Bill 1888, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, 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 days when an abortionist could dismiss an unborn child as just ‘a clump of cells’ are long gone thanks to modern medical advances,” said state Rep. Pam Peterson, the Tulsa Republican who sponsored the bill, according to Channel 6 television. “This legislation takes into account the latest scientific research and provides greater safeguards for the humane treatment of unborn children who can clearly experience pain.”

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 bill now heads to the Oklahoma state House, where it enjoys the support of pro-life groups. Oklahomans for Life has spearheaded support for the bill and the group previously said “urging legislators to support pro-life bills” would be a major focus, calling the measure “of particular importance.”

“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),” OFL president Tony Lauinger explained. Please urge your legislators to support HB 1888, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

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.

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. [related]

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.