Abortion supporters have long insisted that preborn babies can’t feel pain – but scientists, including a ‘pro-choice’ pain expert, now say new evidence shows some babies could suffer pain as they are aborted. 

The medical researchers say that while it had been argued previously that pain could not be experienced before 24 weeks, “it is now clear that the consensus is no longer tenable”.

In a paper entitled “Reconsidering Fetal Pain” the scientists write that studies indicate unborn babies might be able to feel ‘something like pain’ as early as 13 weeks, but especially after 18 weeks “when there is good evidence for a functional connection from the periphery and into the brain.”

The previous consensus of sorts which stated that pain was only possible after 24 weeks relied on observations regarding the development of the cortex – the brain layer that processes sensory information – in the fetal brain. However, the paper notes, recent studies, including one which showed an adult with an severely damaged cortex could still feel pain, indicated that consensus was now upended.

They explained that after 12 weeks gestation, the preborn baby has developed a subplate – a temporary structure which carries connections from the thalamus – and that it is believed that this may be a means of experiencing pain as the baby develops.

“[C]urrent neuroscientific evidence undermines the necessity of the cortex for pain experience. Even if the cortex is deemed necessary for pain experience, there is now good evidence that thalamic projections into the subplate, which emerge around 12 weeks’ gestation, are functional and equivalent to thalamocortical projections that emerge around 24 weeks’ gestation,” the paper says.

To carry on with late-term abortion without pain relief regardless of the new evidence ‘flirts with moral recklessness’, the medics argue.

The scientists write that “we are not aware of any procedures where invasive fetal intervention proceeds without anaesthesia or analgesia, except for abortion”, and argue that since pain should only be ethically permitted where there is a benefit to the patient, this cannot apply in the case of abortion since the procedure is not of benefit to the unborn child.

They also point out that where surgery is performed on babies in the womb pain relief is given.

Women undergoing abortion at later stage in pregnancy should be asked if they would like pain relief provided to the baby, the paper says.

The scientific paper which will cause discomfort to many, was published in the influential British Medical Journal, and was authored by Prof Stuart Derbyshire and Dr John Bockmann  who wrote “we have divergent views regarding the morality of abortion, but have come together to address the evidence for fetal pain.

Professor Derbyshire previously acted as a consultant to the Pro-Choice Forum in the UK and Planned Parenthood, a leading abortion provider.

Pro-life MP Fiona Bruce told the Daily Mail that: ‘Given developing views and research on foetal pain, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidance on this issue in relation to abortion – which is now nearly ten years old – should be reviewed.’

The Life Institute, a leading Irish pro-life group, said the paper should focus the minds of voters on the disturbing reality of abortion and the now inescapable fact that it very often caused horrific pain. “It is unbearable to think of a baby at 18 weeks being killed by abortion and enduring horrific pain, despite the growing evidence that means doctors know this pain is being inflicted,” they said.

“As Ireland goes to vote in Election2020 voters should remember which TDs voted against giving pain relief to babies in late-term abortion. This is cruelty beyond our unde   rstanding.”

 

 


 

 

Máirín De Barra writes from Dublin