Louisiana Gov. Jindal Signs 20-Week Abortion Ban Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 15, 2012   |   12:05PM   |   Baton Rouge, LA

This week, pro-life Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed SB 766, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the science showing unborn children feel pain at that point.

Governor Jindal said, “It is incumbent upon us to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us, and these new laws will protect innocent human life.”

The measure, authored by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego), passed by a margin of 96-0 in the state House and it protects unborn children 20 weeks old (post-fertilization) and older based on the scientific evidence showing that the unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks.

Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, one of the groups that strongly supported the legislation, applauded the legislature for moving it forward and said it would save unborn children from abortion.

“A wealth of scientific evidence shows that unborn children can respond to stimuli as early as 8 weeks and can feel pain just like the rest of us as early as 20 weeks. But currently in Louisiana, there is nothing to stop an abortionist from performing an abortion up until the moment right before birth,” he said. “Upon the signing of this bill by Governor Jindal, these unborn children will be spared from the pain of abortion and given the gift of life. Based on Louisiana statistics, we believe through a conservative estimate that at least 150 lives will be saved annually from abortion.”

SB 766 also provides for license revocation and disciplinary action for any person who intentionally or knowingly performs or induces an abortion on a woman when she has a baby who is 20 weeks or older.

Earlier this year, Governor Jindal signed SB 330 by Senator Rick Ward to create a specific crime for performing an abortion in Louisiana if the abortionist is not licensed to practice medicine in Louisiana. The legislation also created the crime of aggravated criminal abortion by dismemberment when the unborn child is dismembered in the course of a criminal abortion.

Governor Jindal also signed SB 708 by Senator Sharon Weston Broome to require that the fetal heartbeat be made audible and ultrasound images be displayed for optional review prior to an abortion. And he signed HB 1086 by Representative Alan Seabaugh prohibits euthanasia for the non-terminally ill and the severely disabled.  Prior to Governor Jindal signing this new law those same protections were only offered for the terminally ill.

Louisiana becomes the seventh state to enact such a 20-week abortion ban on the basis of substantial medical evidence that demonstrates that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least from 20 weeks from fertilization.

Testifying before the Senate Committee hearing on SB 766 were law professor Theresa Collett, Esq., and Dr. Anita Showalter, Distinguished Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Clapper, Robert Winn, Esq., a long-time pro-life attorney, co-founder and officer of the Federation, and W. A. Krotoski, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., President of The Hippocratic Resource, a Louisiana organization of Life-respecting health professionals testified in the House.

Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, has talked about such bills in other states.

“Medical science has changed over the last forty years,” she said. “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.