Louisiana Senate OKs Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 22, 2012   |   6:43PM   |   Baton Rouge, LA

The Louisiana state Senate today approved legislation that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence certifying unborn children have the capacity to feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The Louisiana Senate passed SB 766, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, authored by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego), by a margin of 36-0. SB 766, one of Louisiana Right to Life’s primary legislative initiatives in 2012, protects unborn children 20 weeks old (post-fertilization).

Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, told LifeNews:  “Currently in Louisiana, there is nothing to stop an abortionist from performing an abortion up until the moment right before birth. Through SB 766, we can protect an unborn child at 20 weeks and put a dent in the abortion-on-demand mentality advanced by the abortion industry.”

“We commend Senate President Alario and the Senate for their action on this important piece of legislation. We encourage the House to expeditiously move SB 766 through towards the Governor’s desk. Upon passage, we expect this bill to go into effect and save approximately 150 lives each year,” Clapper added.

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.”

“Medical science has changed over the last forty years,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee. “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.

Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma have passed such legislation. Besides Louisiana, 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.