Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor dismissed arguments that unborn babies should be protected from abortion when they are capable of feeling pain Wednesday as Mississippi asked to be allowed to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The high court heard a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade on Wednesday in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. Mississippi is challenging the precedent that forces states to legalize the killing of unborn babies for any reason up to viability.
During oral arguments Wednesday, Mississippi attorney Scott Stewart told the court that science has advanced so much in the five decades since Roe that society now has a better understanding about the humanity and development of the unborn child.
However, Sotomayor, a Democrat appointee, attacked this reasoning in her line of questioning, asking Stewart to name specific medical and scientific advances that the court should consider.
“I think it’s an advancement in knowledge and concern about such things as fetal pain, what we know the child is doing and looks like and is fully human from a very early-” Stewart responded before Sotomayor interrupted him.
Later, Stewart said unborn babies at early stages of pregnancy can be seen recoiling when being poked or touched.
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But Sotomayor dismissed this evidence, claiming only a “gross minority of doctors” believe fetal pain exists before 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“It’s a huge minority and one not well founded in science at all,” she continued. “I don’t see how that really adds anything to the discussion.”
Sotomayor also argued that only a “small fringe of doctors believe that pain could be experienced … before a cortex is formed.”
It is not clear on what evidence Sotomayor based her claims about fetal pain, but they are, at the very least, outdated. Nor did she present any evidence that most doctors and scientists agree with her.
Recently, a renowned expert in the science of fetal pain said he re-examined the evidence and now believes that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Stuart Derbyshire, a pro-choice neuroscientist at the National University of Singapore, published an analysis in 2020 explaining the reasons why he now thinks an unborn baby’s capability to feel pain begins at about 12 weeks – not 24 weeks as his previous research suggested.
Derbyshire is not alone. For many years, other studies have presented strong evidence that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain as soon as the first trimester.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said Sotomayor’s assertions were just ignorant.
“Just last week, the world heard news that a baby born at 21 weeks and survived set a new record for premature survival. According to The New York Times, the baby, now 16 months old, ‘defies long odds and astonishes doctors,’” Christie said.
A diagnostic radiologist, Christie said she has seen how science and medicine have shed new light on the humanity of the unborn child through ultrasounds and other advances.
“This case is before the Supreme Court today in large part because Americans have seen the evolving science and increasingly want a voice in a question of great moral consequence,” she continued.
One of the problems is that some pro-abortion groups are still citing outdated research, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as part of its abortion advocacy.
ACOG, a prominent medical group with close ties to the abortion industry, advocates for abortion on demand at least up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. On its website, the group cites a study that Derbyshire published in 2010 as evidence that unborn babies cannot feel pain until “at least 24 weeks of gestation.” It has not updated its website with the new and growing evidence that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain as early as 12 weeks.
Science has made it increasingly clear that unborn babies are unique, living and valuable human beings. By 15 weeks, unborn babies are nearly fully formed, with beating hearts and detectable brain waves, unique fingerprints and all their major organs. On ultrasounds, unborn babies at this stage can be seen sucking their thumbs and responding to noises.
Americans recognize this, too. Polls consistently show that a strong majority of Americans oppose abortions in the second and third trimesters and many support heartbeat laws that protect unborn babies at their earliest stage of life.
Earlier this year, groups representing more than 30,000 doctors and medical professionals filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that unborn babies are patients who deserve legal protections.
“In the nearly 50 years since the court wrongly decided Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, medical science has progressed significantly and has increasingly supported the pro-life position,” the medical alliance said in a statement. “It is time that the law of our land caught up with advances in medical science and supported the human rights of all of our patients.”
Pro-life advocates hope the Supreme Court will scale back or overturn Roe v. Wade in their ruling on the Mississippi case.
If they do, states would be allowed to protect unborn babies from abortion again, possibly from the moment of conception or at least after the first trimester, and groups estimate anywhere from a dozen to two dozen states would do so. As a result, thousands of babies could be spared from violent abortion deaths every year across America.
The high court is expected to publish its ruling on the case sometime next year, potentially June 2022.