A baby’s pain

By: Marisa Palpallatoc


One of the biggest controversies flooding the media today is the divisive debate over New York’s recent legalization of late-term abortions. The law authorizes the termination of a pregnancy, the purposeful ending of a fetus’s life in the womb, after the  24-week gestation cutoff that Roe v. Wade set for the country in 1973. While many pro-choice advocates celebrated this as a victory for women’s rights, this is actually a devastating blow to society in terms of basic human rights.

When someone mistreats a child, it is called child abuse. When someone murders a pregnant woman, he or she can be charged with a double homicide. When someone induces a heart attack or pulls a human baby out of the womb limb from limb at 24 weeks when the child can live outside of the womb and feel pain more intensely than an adult, it’s considered heroic and glorified as a woman’s right. These laws are in place to protect innocent children yet New York lawmakers have no problem with the idea of subjecting them to unnatural pain before they can really understand what pain is.

The precedent set by Roe v. Wade allowed for abortions up until the period of “fetal viability” recognized somewhere betweenat 24-28 weeks. Viability is the point where a baby can survive outside the mother’s womb. The longer the gestation period is, the greater the chance of viability.

According to Pampers’ website, at this point of viability, the baby is the size of an ear of corn, he or she is testing out facial expressions, and his or her inner ear is fully formed. The baby will suck his or her thumb and kicks and moves around; the mother can feel the baby in her belly. Most importantly, however, at this point, the baby can also feel pain. In fact, the baby develops pain receptors and reacts to stimuli nearly a month before the point of viability.

Dr. Paul Ranalli, a neurologist from the University of Toronto said, “At 20 weeks, the fetal brain has the full complement of brain cells present in adulthood, ready and waiting to receive pain signals from the body, and their electrical activity can be recorded by standard electroencephalography (EEG).”

Not only can the fetus experience pain, but they feel it more intensely than human adults. According to Ranalli, 20 weeks gestation is a “uniquely vulnerable time since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop.

This is where these facts tie into abortion. If you’re unfamiliar with the abortion process, at this time of gestation there are two methods used to terminate a pregnancy. These methods involve processes that are very painful for the baby as theirhis or her ultra-sensitive pain receptors pick up on every single minute of his or her termination.

The first method, called dilation and extraction or D&E, starts with the dilation of the cervix using an item called laminaria – a sterilized piece of seaweed that a woman leaves in the opening of her cervix for a period of time in order to fully dilate it. After the cervix is dilated, the doctor performing the abortion uses a series of tools to pull the child’s limbs out of the womb one by one.

The second method uses a chemical injection called digoxin in order to induce a heart attack in the baby. Sometimes the child will survive calling for a second dose of digoxin. All the while, the fetus can pick up the stimulus of the needle and the fatal chemical and most importantly, it feels the pain of it all.

Even doctors who are pro-choice acknowledge the fact that a fetus at 20 weeks feels pain. David Bimbach, president of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology said, “Having administered anesthesia for fetal surgery, I know that on occasion we need to administer anesthesia directly to the fetus, because even at these early gestational ages the fetus moves away from the pain of the stimulation.” This is the case for fetal surgery, yet a baby who is to be aborted will not even receive anesthetics despite the fact that they can and do feel pain.

Humans have a right to life and that point begins when the human can survive outside of his or her mother. No human in the womb or in the world should have to endure the pain of these procedures. There are options, other than abortion that can safely ensure the health of both the baby and the mother; they protect both of their equal rights to live.