After nearly 50 years of legalized abortion on demand, scientists now have an “enormous body of data” confirming that unborn babies can feel pain as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to a professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah.
Writing at National Review, Professor Maureen Condic said scientists understand much more about unborn babies’ development than they did in 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade.
It’s now clear that babies in the womb can feel pain as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy and certainly by 18 weeks, she said.
“There is now strong evidence that fetuses as early as 12 weeks exhibit conscious, intentional behavior and that they actively discriminate among similar sensory experiences,” Condic said.
She cited research by Stuart Derbyshire, a widely respected brain-mapping researcher, who abortion activists used to point to as “a leading voice against the likelihood of fetal pain.”
In 2020, Derbyshire determined that his previous conclusions were wrong, and now he believes that “even without a fully formed cortex, neural connections from the thalamus to the subplate could be sufficient for pain perception,” Condic said.
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According to Derbyshire’s new research, “… a balanced reading of that evidence, points toward an immediate and unreflective pain experience mediated by the developing function of the nervous system from as early as 12 weeks.”
There is long-standing, effectively universal scientific agreement that connections between the fetus’s spinal cord and the thalamus region of the brain form between twelve and 18 weeks. And growing evidence that later-developing connections to the cortex are not necessary for a conscious experience of pain has radically revised our understanding of fetal neurological development and led to the conclusion that the fetus can and does experience pain from early in the second trimester.
… Multiple studies demonstrate that both animals and humans display consciousness and suffering even if the brain’s cortex is impaired, immature, or absent.
An associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, she said observations with 4D ultrasounds and very premature babies born as early as 21 weeks of pregnancy also provide visual evidence that unborn babies feel pain in the second trimester.
“Moreover, although the human brain does not reach maturity until approximately age 25, human perception of pain tends to stay constant throughout the life span, meaning that one’s experience of suffering is not dependent on mature cortical circuitry,” Condic said.
Then there are studies showing that unborn babies as early as 14 weeks can distinguish between music and vibration noises and unborn babies at 23 weeks can recognize nursery rhymes, all of which suggests complex brain development and a level of awareness, she said.
These findings are especially significant as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a case that challenges Roe v. Wade directly and could allow states to protect unborn babies from abortion again. The Mississippi law at the center of the case bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but current legal precedent prohibits states from protecting unborn babies before viability, about 22 weeks.
The growing evidence about pain and awareness add to the pro-life position that unborn babies are unique, valuable human beings even at very early stages of pregnancy, and abortion is cruel violence against defenseless children that must end.