Capacity of Unborn Children to Feel Pain Scares the Media Elite

National   |   Kathy Ostrowski   |   Sep 19, 2013   |   3:04PM   |   Washington, DC

With the rise in the number of states passing legislation that bans aborting unborn children capable of feeling pain, the New York Times this week decided the nation awaits their take with bated breath.

Of course, the majority of the medical sources the Times’ Pam Belluck cites are abortion providers (and their supporters) who dismiss the mounting evidence that by no later than the 20th week, the unborn can feel pain. Among the pain deniers cited is Dr. Nicolas Fisk.

But Belluck conveniently omits Fisk’s own published research in which he concludes, “Given the anatomical evidence, it is possible that the fetus can feel pain from 20 weeks and is caused distress by interventions from as early as 15 or 16 weeks.” (See here and here)

Belluck does quote the architect of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., National Right to Life’s Director of State Legislation. In the context of a discussion of pain medicine that is now routinely given the child during in utero surgery, Balch says,

“If the child who is waiting for surgery can feel pain, the child who is waiting for abortion can also feel pain.”

Also woven into the story are two researchers whose scientific results verify pain capability in the unborn.

One of them, Dr. Kanweeljat Anand, proved in the early 1980s that newborns not only experience pain, but that they were literally dying from it. These results were instrumental in the development of the medical specialty of fetal anesthesia. Belluck also omits Dr. Anand’s assertion in 2007 congressional testimony that “a fetus at 20 to 32 weeks of gestation would experience a much more intense pain than older infants or children or adults.”

The New York Times article also doesn’t mention this pioneer’s role in ending barbaric surgery performed without anesthesia on tiny humans. Indeed it is only in the second half of the story that Dr. Anand is even introduced.

In large measure he is relegated to enforcing their “takeaway” message (mentioned six times in the article). And that is that “most abortions are performed before the fetus is capable of experiencing pain”–98%–the intentpresumably to pacify people who don’t know that the 2% translates into 20,000 pain-feeling unborn babies aborted each year!

But as largely one-sided as the Times article was, it only served to infuriate the pro-abortion Salon magazine. The headline for Katie McDonough’s story is “New York Times legitimizes anti-choice propaganda.”



As their anti-pain source, Salon chose Dr. Anne Davis, loosely defined as “a second-trimester abortion provider.” Davis is satisfied that the fetal brain can’t process pain without a developed “cortex” at 28 weeks gestation, but that position is no longer tenable. “In fact, there is substantial medical evidence that in the brain it is the thalamus, rather than the cerebral cortex, that is principally responsible for pain perception,” as you can read here.

In both cases—The Times and—the goal is not to give the case for fetal pain a fair hearing but to dismiss the evidence as wishful thinking on the part of zealots. Both are wrong.

KANSAS NOTE: The Kansas Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act went into effect July 1, 2011. On June 18, 2013, the federal version of this legislation, H.R. 1797, passed the U.S. House by a vote of 228-196, with support from all four Kansas Congressional reps [Jenkins, Huelskamp, Pompeo, Yoder]. Note: Kathy Ostrowski is the legislative director for Kansans for Life, a statewide pro-life group.