Oklahoma Senate Committee OKs Abortion-Fetal Pain Abortion Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 28, 2011   |   6:34PM   |   Oklahoma City, OK

An Oklahoma state Senate committee voted today for a state House-passed bill that would ban abortions after 20 because unborn children have been shown to feel intense pain.

The House overwhelmingly approved the bill, House Bill 1888, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, on a 94-2 vote. The bill 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.

Today, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted for the measure 6-1, making it so abortion practitioners who violate the fetal pain-based abortion ban by doing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would face felony charges.

The legislation has the strong endorsement of pro-life groups and Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life, told LifeNews.com today before the vote, “This crucial pro-life bill, HB 1888, would ban the aborting of an unborn child who is capable of feeling pain. Medical evidence shows that, by 20 weeks after fertilization, a baby can feel pain.”

The pro-life group is also endorsing another pro-life bill, SB 547, the Abortion-Is-Not-Health-Care bill, that will receive a vote in the House Insurance Committee this Thursday.

“SB 547 would prohibit coverage for elective abortions under health-insurance plans in Oklahoma, affirm the principle that abortion is not health care, and protect the conscience rights of pro-life premium payers so they’re not complicit in the killing,” Lauinger said.

During the House debate on the fetal pain bill, Rep. Pan Peterson, a Tulsa Republican, said about the legislation, “People on both sides of the abortion debate should agree that gratuitous suffering of an unborn child is really incompatible with a decent and humane society. That’s what this bill does; it shows the humaneness of that unborn child.”

“This is a bill that has caught up with scientific evidence,” Peterson said. “Thirty-eight years ago, it was considered a clump of cells and now we know differently. We can see the development of the child; we do fetal surgery.”

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.

Reps. Emily Virgin and Jeannie McDaniel, both Democrats, voted against the legislation and five Democrats were absent for the vote in the House. Virgin said she expects a lawsuit will be filed against the bill, even though the first-in-the-nation law Nebraska passed that is similar has not been the subject of a lawsuit. The Nebraska 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 legislation, if it becomes law, is expected to take effect on November 1.

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. [related]

“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.