Idaho Senate Panel OKs Bill to Ban Abortions Over Fetal Pain

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 4, 2011   |   2:29PM   |   Boise, ID

Because unborn children have the capacity to feel intense pain, the Idaho state Senate approved an avant garde bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The measure is similar to a first-in-the-nation law Nebraska passed that forced abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart to move to Maryland to do abortions late in pregnancy. The law has not been challenged by abortion advocates and the legislation is an attempt by pro-life groups to get the Supreme Court to move case law further down the road of allowing more limits on abortion.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee passed the bill today and Republican Sen. Chuck Winder, its sponsor, says the measure protects unborn children who would otherwise experience intense pain during an abortion.

Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett opposed the bill and claimed it interferes with women’s so-called right to an abortion.

Pro-life groups strongly support the bill and, together with Right to Life of Idaho, the Cornerstone Family Council worked with Winder to utilize current scientific research that indicates that unborn citizens can feel pain.

Julie Lynde, the executive director of CFC, said, “Extensive scientific documentation from all over the globe conclusively shows that a 20 week old unborn baby reacts to, has extreme stress from, and feels pain.”

“Since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, medical science has come a long way. We know so much more about the unborn child now than we did then.  Especially with the advance of fetal surgery which is commonly done today.  Fetal surgeons have long seen the need for their unborn patients to be given anesthesia during surgery,” she added. “There is strong medical evidence that unborn babies feel pain at 20 weeks.  In fact, evidence shows that the pain of the 20 week old unborn child is far more intense than what you and I would experience. Their underdeveloped nerve endings do not have the protective coating which our nerve endings have, so the pain they experience is much more severe.”

“Abortion not only hurts the pregnant mother, unborn babies feel the intense and excruciating pain of abortion,” Lynde added. “Last year, based on this evidence, Nebraska was the first state in America to ban abortions when the unborn child is capable of feeling pain. Our Idaho legislature needs to pass a Nebraska type Fetal Pain law.  Many pro-life Idaho Legislators see the need for this protection and are looking to assist Sen. Winder in this great effort.”

Kerry Uhlenkott, Right to Life of Idaho agreed and said, “Nebraska’s law provides the strongest protection in the country for the unborn child, because they are protected in the fifth and sixth month of pregnancy and later. It is illegal to kill unborn babies in Nebraska who feel pain.”

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.