Idaho Senate Passes Fetal Pain Bill Banning Late Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 23, 2011   |   4:19PM   |   Boise, ID

The Idaho state Senate approved a bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel extensive pain.  The Senate voted 24-10 for the legislation.

During the debate, according to an AP report, Democratic Sen. Diane Bilyeu, of Pocatello told lawmakers the legislation “lets Big Brother decide what’s best for our families,” but sponsoring Sen. Chuck Winder, a Republican, said the bill is about science and protecting human life.

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, also a Republican, voted against the bill and complained that it is a waste of money because courts will declare it unconstitutional even though the first-in-the-nation law passed in Nebraska to accomplish the same goal has not been challenged.

Winder said the bill was “worthy of our consideration during a very stressful legislative session.”

“This is to take a bite out of the apple, to move it back, under new science, new information that’s available to us,” he said, “relating to pain suffered in the event of an abortion.”

Sen. Cheryl Nuxoll said she thinks the Supreme Court will uphold the bill, according to the Spokesman Review newspaper: “It just seems like there’s a very great chance, with Kennedy being the deciding vote on the Supreme Court,” she said. “In his decisions … he talked about the fetal pain. … That’s our contention is that this would be upheld by the Supreme Court if it came to that point.”

The bill now heads to the state House for consideration.

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.

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.