Florida Committee Passes Abortion Bill Infoming on Fetal Pain

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 29, 2011   |   6:39PM   |   Tallahassee, FL

Add Florida to the list of states where legislatures are advancing a bill concerning late abortions based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel pain during an abortion.

State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican,  filed a bill that uses significant research to ban abortions after 20 weeks or more of pregnancy and the bill is called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. He previously said “by 20 weeks after fertilization there is substantial evidence that an unborn child has the physical structures necessary to experience pain.”

In 2010, Mary Spaulding Balch — National Right to Life Committee director of state legislation — heralded the passage of similar legislation in Nebraska that prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. She said the pro-life group expected more states to join Nebraska.

Florida was set to start the process of following suit but the House Health and Human Services subcommittee changed the measure, with Trujillo’s support, to scale back the timeframe from 20 to 22 weeks and made it so the bill only mandates that the abortion practitioner give women information on fetal pain and offer anesthesia for the unborn child. The bill will likely result in helping some women reconsider a late abortion decision, but it would not ban abortions after that point of pregnancy as is the case with the Nebraska law and bills pending in other states.

The bill also allows women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child prior to having an abortion — similar to HB 1127, a bill the committee already approved. https://www.lifenews.com/2011/03/22/florida-house-panel-passes-ultrasound-before-abortion-bill/

After making the changes, the House Health and Human Services subcommittee passed HB 321 10-4.

Trujillo said the bill is helpful in conveying the humanity of the unborn child and pointed out that even stray animals receive anesthesia before they are euthanized.

“Give those children the same dignity and respect we give to stray dogs and stray cats,” he said, according to the Bradenton Herald.

Democrats on the committee opposed the bill with Elaine Schwartz saying, “We should not be debating this. This is not a subject for a committee of the Florida legislature to be discussing.”

Maureen Ahern, the wife of Rep. Larry Ahern, a Republican legislator, testified for the bill.

Sen. Ronda Storms, a Republican, has a similar bill pending in the state Senate that bans abortions rather than offering information about fetal 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.