Idaho Governor Signs Fetal Pain-Based Abortion Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 14, 2011   |   6:44PM   |   Boise, ID

Add Idaho to the list of states that have followed the trend Nebraska started and banned abortions based on scientific evidence clearly showing unborn children experience pain in the womb.

Idaho Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter signed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, making Idaho the third state to protect from abortion the life of the pain-capable child. Idaho’s Senate, led by Senator Chuck Winder, passed this historic bill by the impressive vote of 24-10. The House, led by Rep. Brent Crane and Rep. Lynn Luker passed it by the overwhelming vote of 54-14.

Mary Spaulding Balch, an attorney who is the director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, told, “Solid medical research substantiates the fact that unborn children recoil from painful stimuli, experience increased stress hormones when subjected to pain, and require anesthesia when undergoing fetal surgery.”

“We commend Idaho for joining Nebraska and Kansas in recognizing their compelling interest in protecting from abortion the unborn child who is capable of feeling pain,” she said.

As drafted by National Right to Life’s state legislation department, the model Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act protects from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain except when the mother “has a condition which so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion of her pregnancy to avert death or to avert serious risk of substantial or irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function or…it is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child.”

Continuing the trend among the states in passing pro-life legislation, further action during the state legislative session on the model Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is expected in Alabama, Minnesota and Oklahoma, among others.

“Over the past several years, we have seen an increasing number of state legislatures concerned with protecting the lives of unborn children and their mothers,” added Balch.  “We are encouraged to see the trend continuing this year with passage of laws like the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

Right to Life of Idaho also weighed in on Governor Otter’s signature and said it did not know if abortion advocates would challenge the law in court.

“Planned Parenthood in both Kansas and Oklahoma have said they do not plan to challenge these laws.  We do not know yet what Planned Parenthood of Idaho will do,” the group said. Nebraska abortion backers did not challenge the ban there either.

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.”

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.”

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.