Idaho Ban of Late Abortions Over Fetal Pain Heads to Senate

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 16, 2011   |   1:25PM   |   Boise, ID

The Idaho bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel extensive pain has received final clearance from a committee and now heads to the full state Senate.

Today, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted for it on a 7-2 party-line vote after a couple of hours of testimony. Sen. Chuck Winder, the measure’s Republican sponsor, told lawmakers that unborn babies feel intense pain that late in pregnancy and should not be subjected to abortions.

Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum, according to an AP report, opposed the bill and said it would somehow make women give birth to babies who have rare medical conditions. But, Sean Patrick Kenney, a Nebraska doctor who is a specialist in fetal medicine and has been a leader in promoting the first-in-the-nation law the state passed last year, told lawmakers that doctors should make such babies comfortable until they die on their own.

Senator Fulcher made the motion that the committee send SB 1165 to the full Senate and recommend that it be passed and Sen. Bart Davis, also a Republican, seconded the motion. Stennett made a motion that would have weakened the bill and Sen. Edgar Malepeai, the other Democrat opposed to the measure, seconded that, but it failed.

According to the Spokesman Review newspaper, Marty Durand, attorney for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, told committee members the abortion business opposes the bill to ban late abortions.

“We stand in opposition” to SB 1165, he said.

Ken McClure, lobbyist for the Idaho Medical Association, also opposed the bill and claimed it would conflict with existing law that permits a late abortion of a baby who will supposedly die at birth. And Hannah Brass of the ACLU told the panel she thinks the bill is unconstitutional, even though the Nebraska measure has not been challenged in court.

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.