A new Iowa bill passed by a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday would protect unborn babies from painful late-term abortions.
The bill, Iowa Senate File 53, would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks when strong scientific evidence indicates unborn babies can feel pain. The bill passed the subcommittee in a 2-1 vote, according to the Des Moines Register.
The likelihood of the bill passing remains uncertain because a state legislative deadline requires that bills pass full committees before the end of this week, the Associated Press reports.
Here’s more from the local news:
Joan Thompson, a lobbyist for the Iowa Catholic Conference, spoke in support of the 20-week ban, suggesting it provides lawmakers with a rare opportunity to reform the state’s abortion law. She said the United States is one of the most permissive countries in the world for abortion, and Iowa is part of that permissive culture. She was joined in supporting the bill by Eric Goranson of Des Moines, representing the Iowa Right to Life Committee.
Several other speakers strongly opposed the bill, including Amanda Acton of Waukee, who was joined by her husband, Tim. She told of being informed by her doctor at 21 weeks of pregnancy that her baby had a rare disorder and would not survive long, but would have an agonizing life. After a week of consideration, she and her husband concluded the most compassionate decision would be to terminate the pregnancy for their daughter, whom they named Leslie Elizabeth.
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“I remember thanking God,” Acton said. “I don’t regret my abortion, not one little bit.”
Though abortion advocates deny the science of fetal pain, researchers have fully established fetal pain at 20 weeks or earlier. 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 unborn pain.
At 20 weeks, the unborn child has all the parts in place – the pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts, and thalamus – needed for transmitting and feeling pain. The unborn child responds to touch as early as week 6; and by week 18, pain receptors have appeared throughout the child’s body.
“The thalamus, which is the center of pain consciousness in the brain, develops during weeks 8 through 16, and the nerve tracts connecting the spinal cord and thalamus are themselves in place by week 20,” said Randy O’Bannon of National Right to Life. “Like infants, the unborn child cannot speak and describe his or her pain experience, but there are the usual physiological indicators that indicate pain awareness.”
“As early as 18 weeks, an unborn child injected with a needle releases stress hormones, just as adults do when experiencing pain. Hormone levels in those babies decrease when pain-relievers are supplied,” he added. “Studies indicate that anencephalic infants, whose cortex is severely reduced if not altogether absent, experience pain as long as other neurological structures are functioning.”
Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told a U.S. Senate committee last year that “anesthesiologists, and surgeons use pain medication” for unborn babies at the 20 week stage, “because it’s supported by the literature completely.”
“The standard of care for NICUs requires attention to and treatment of neonatal pain,” she said. “There is no reason to believe that a born infant will feel pain any differently than that same infant if he or she were still in utero.”
“I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to a horrific procedure such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection,” Malloy added.
Currently, 16 states have pain-capable unborn child protection laws in effect, Kentucky being the most recent. Other states are considering similar bills.
Together, these laws potentially are saving thousands of babies from painful, late-term abortions. There were at least 5,770 late-term abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another approximate 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.