Georgia Legislature Advances Fetal Pain Based Abortion Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 27, 2012   |   6:32PM   |   Atlanta, GA

A measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel pain passed out of committee and moves to the floor of the Georgia state House.

“Georgia law allows abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy. HB 954 is based on scientific studies which clearly show that preborn babies feel and react to pain at 20 weeks after fertilization. In fact, some research indicates that pain perceived by a preborn child is more intense than that experienced by newborns, older children and adults,” says Georgia Right to Life.  “Pro-abortion researchers try to claim that preborn children cannot feel pain until later in the pregnancy when nerves reach the cerebral cortex. However, since 2007 medical research has indicated that those connections are not essential for a preborn child to experience pain.”

Known as the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” HB 954 would ban abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy and it includes an exception to protect the life of the mother.  Similar bills have been approved in six other states.

GRTL President Dan Becker today called on all pro-life residents of the state to help support the measure.

“There is irrefutable scientific evidence that a fetus feels and responds to pain at 20 weeks,” Becker said.  “Failing to protect them from the horrific pain of an abortion is morally reprehensible.”

“If we don’t stand up for life, who will,” Becker said.  “We need your help.”

The most recent survey estimated that 1.5% of the 1.2 million annual abortions in the United States are performed on children at 19 weeks after fertilization, or older. That amounts to more than 18,000 abortions annually. In Georgia, nearly 1,000 such abortions, or 4% of the total, were performed in 2009.

Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma have passed such legislation. Besides Georgia, similar laws are being considered in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Florida and New Hampshire.

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.” [related]

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.