The Georgia state House has approved a measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel 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.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip (District 115), now goes to the Senate.
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. 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.
Georgia Right to Life president Dan Becker applauded passage and said “Passing the fetal pain bill took courage. I commend those who saw through the confusion and misinformation spread by its opponents.”
“There is well-documented scientific evidence that a fetus feels and responds to pain at 20 weeks,” Becker added, “This bill ensures that horrific late-term abortions will not be performed in our state.”
Noting that Georgia is second in the nation in late term abortions, Becker said the bill will save the lives of well over 1,000 babies per year.
Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee also applauded the 102-65 vote.
“We applaud the Georgia House of Representatives for taking this important step for pain-capable children,” she told LifeNews. “The state has a vested interest in protecting unborn children who can feel pain from the violence of abortion.”
The model Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, drafted by the National Right to Life Committee’s state legislation department, protects the life of the unborn child at the point that they 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.”
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a priority of the National Right to Life Committee, has been passed in five states and is currently being debated across the country. The legislation has also been introduced in Congress with the intent to protect unborn children in the District of Columbia who are able to feel pain during an abortion.
“Medical science has changed over the last forty years,” said Balch “Accordingly, elected officials across the country are looking at new medical advances and recognizing that our laws need to step into the future as we continue to learn more about the development of the unborn child.”
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. [related]
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.”
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.