On the heels of a state Senate committee passing a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, the full Ohio state Senate approved the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.B. 117 and S.B. 127). The bill prohibits abortions in Ohio at the point at which unborn babies can feel pain, which is as early as 20 weeks gestation. Some 173 babies were aborted after 21 weeks in Ohio in the most recent year for which data is available.
Now the bill heads to the state House, which will need to approve it before it goes to pro-life Governor John Kasich.
“This is the most important piece of legislation Ohio Right to Life has passed in quite a long time,” the group’s President Mike Gonidakis said, adding he’d be “stunned” if the bill failed to pass the House. “This is a strategic step into hopefully some day ending abortion.”
Every Democrat present during the Senate’s session voted against the bill.
The legislation is sponsored by Senators Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Jay Hottinger (R-Newark). Between the House and Senate, thirty-three legislators signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.
“In Ohio, I was fortunate enough to work with Ohio Right to Life for the enactment of our post-viability abortion ban in 2011,” said Senator Peggy Lehner in her testimony. “Since passage of that legislation, abortions after 19 weeks gestation have decreased by 40%. While we are encouraged by this trend, there is more to be done and frankly I see no reason why we cant do it together, setting aside our hardened positions on abortion rights and seeking a law that more clearly reflects our understanding of fetal development.”
“The Hippocratic Oath says, First do no harm,” said Representative Roegner, another bill supporter. “I would think everyone could agree to err on the side of caution, in light of the overwhelming scientific evidence, when it comes to the question of whether a five month pre-born baby can feel pain.”
Ohio Right to Life strongly supports the bill and says public opinion is solidly on the side of protecting unborn babies from abortions.
“With Kermit Gosnell’s House of Horrors marked indelibly on the collective American conscience, it’s no wonder there’s a groundswell of support for legislation that protects 5-month pre-born babies from the pain of being dismembered,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life. “The passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will chronicle the end of late-term abortion-on-demand in Ohio, bringing us in line with the rest of the developed world.”
Krider said the legislation challenges the viability limit on abortion restrictions, commonly triggered at 24 weeks, that the U.S. Supreme Court imposed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. As of 2011, abortions in Ohio are prohibited at 24 weeks or the point of viability, which must be tested for at 20 weeks gestation.
Supporters of the bill say it is important to help keep the focus on how abortion victimizes unborn children.
“Human growth in the womb is truly amazing,” said Dr. Dennis Sullivan, director of the Center for Bioethics at Cedarville University. “Most fetal organs are fully formed by the end of the first three months of development. We also know that unborn babies react to external stimuli very early on, and pull away from probes and operating instruments when procedures are done late in pregnancy. I am so thankful that society is finally recognizing the need to protect its most vulnerable members from unnecessary and horrific pain and suffering. It is our solemn duty to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”
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.”