A typically unbalanced discussion on NOW with Alex Wagner seeks to assure viewers that babies feel no pain until well after 20 weeks’ gestation. So says panel “expert,” abortionist Anne Davis (pictured right), from Physicians for Reproductive Health, who conveniently happens to perform abortions late into pregnancy. According to host Alex Wagner:

We know that this isn’t really of course about fetal pain. It isn’t really even about, I mean, I would say, the protection of life. It’s about a concerted effort to roll back reproductive rights and make it harder and harder and harder for women to exercise control over their own bodies.

Not that it matters anyway, as another MSNBC host believes: “I don’t want to get bogged down [with the issue of fetal pain]. I think a great deal of people would agree that science and that public opinion is on your side,” Craig Melvin told pro-life Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

One wonders by what mechanism babies move from the very start of their existence, if it isn’t by an intact nervous system? Perhaps it’s the same magical one that translates them to personhood at birth.


Earlier this year, as members of Congress debated a bill to ban late-term abortions, a national debate ensued over the question of whether unborn children feel pain. Abortion activists derided studies and expert testimony confirming fetal pain.

Now, an anesthesiology professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Ray Paschall, who has done more surgeries with fetal anesthesia than any doctor in the world, says babies feel pain not only before birth but before viability:

“It’s not even close,” he told a newspaper about his status as the leading surgeon with experience with fetal anesthesia surgeries, “I’ve personally done around 260 now.”

Leading researchers confirm the scientific evidence behind fetal pain:

In the early 1980s Dr. Kawaljeet Anand, then an intern at a British hospital, noticed many of his neonatal patients exhibiting stress and dying after surgery. This sparked research that led to a landmark 1987 piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine that outlined the evidence of neonatal pain, including a litany of stress and hormonal responses, key “surrogate measures” of pain. Neonatal surgery would never be the same after Anand got done with it.

Anand proved that newborns not only perceived pain, but that they were literally dying from it. In one of his studies, mortality dropped from 25 to 10 percent just through using anesthesia. By the turn of the 21st century, thanks largely to Anand, newborn anesthesia was standard. By the time the Puente twins came along, it was not even a question.



That challenge conquered, Anand’s research moved on to premature infants like the Puente twins and from there to the pre-viable fetus. It is on the latter point, of course, that the controversy really takes life.

Now with an endowed chair at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, the pioneering pain researcher finds himself at the center of the national abortion debate, often castigated for his insistence that the fetus and premature newborn feel pain. As ever, the politics of abortion lurk directly behind the question of fetal pain.

Anand has, in fact, argued that a fetus or premature newborn may actually feel pain more intensely than an older newborn. He asserted in 2007 congressional testimony on fetal pain legislation that “a fetus at 20 to 32 weeks of gestation would experience a much more intense pain than older infants or children or adults” because certain pain mechanisms are in play much earlier, while “fibers which dampen and modulate the experience of pain” are delayed until between 32-34 weeks.