The South Carolina state House has approved a pro-life bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, because research shows unborn children can feel intense pain.
Called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H3114) the measure received an 80-27 vote in the House and now moves to the state Senate. More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America.
During the committee hearing, experts talked about unborn children and the pain they feel in abortions.
Dr. Stuart Hamilton, M.D., a Columbia University trained pediatrician and long-time supporter of pro-life legislation, described fetal development for members of the committee. He said he agrees with scientific research demonstrating the unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks after fertilization.
“There is evidence for the probable appreciation of pain by 20 weeks gestation after fertilization,” Dr. Hamilton told the subcommittee. “Anatomically at 20 weeks, the examination of the nervous system displays the appropriate tracks in the central nervous system and the peripheral nerve fibers that are designed to transmit and carry pain impulses.” He went on to explain that at the age of 16 weeks, the baby’s body shows “substantial neurological maturation.” Even at 12 weeks, he said, “The immature constituents of these pathways are clearly visible with magnification.”
A father-son team of physicians also spoke in favor of the bill. Dr. Tom Austin, M.D., a retired neonatologist, and former director of Neonatology at the USC School of Medicine, defined pain as “a noxious insult that one attempts to avoid or repel.” In his practice he treated babies prematurely born at 18 to 22 weeks. “They did show response to stimuli,” he said. “They would respond, move, recoil.”
His son, also Dr. Tom Austin, M.D, is an obstetrician-gynocologist who practices in the Columbia area. He described his experience with delivering pre-mature infants. “I agree with my father. You can see the baby is trying to live.” He also criticized the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a national organization that supports abortion-on-demand. He described ACOG as being closely tied to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business. Dr. Austin said he is not affiliated with ACOG and instead has joined the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
South Carolina Citizens for Life, the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee which developed the model pain-capable legislation, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the Palmetto Family Council, and the North Greenville Christian World View Center are among the organizations supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee says several states have already passed the bill and a federal version is pending in Congress.
A national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger. Only 30% said they would oppose such a law.
A November 2014 poll from Quinnipiac found that 60 percent of Americans support legislation limiting abortions after 20 weeks, including 56 percent of Independents and 46 percent of Democrats.
During a Congressional hearing on the federal bill, former abortion practitioner Anthony Levatino told members of the committee the gruesome details of his former abortion practice and how he became pro-life following the tragic automobile accident of his child.
Another bombshell dropped during the hearing came from Dr. Maureen Condic, who is Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She testified that the unborn child is capable of reacting to pain as early as 8-10 weeks. This is when most abortions in America take place.
The bill relies on the science of fetal pain to establish a Constitutional reason for Congress to ban abortions late in pregnancy. 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 has provided further research to substantiate their work.
One leading expert in the field of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand at the University of Tennessee, stated in his expert report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, “It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.”
“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.
Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2012 said, “[w]hen we speak of infants at 22 weeks LMP [Note: this is 20 weeks post fertilization], for example, we no longer have to rely solely on inferences or ultrasound imagery, because such premature patients are kicking, moving, reacting, and developing right before our eyes in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”
“In today’s medical arena, we resuscitate patients at this age and are able to witness their ex-utero growth and development. Medical advancement and technology have enabled us to improve our ability to care for these infants…In fact, standard of care for neonatal intensive care units requires attention to and treatment of neonatal pain,” Dr. Malloy testified. She continued, “[t]hus, the difference between fetal and neonatal pain is simply the locale in which the pain occurs. The receiver’s experience of the pain is the same. I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to horrific procedures such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection.”