Fetal Pain Laws Based on Pseudoscience: Why 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Dumb and Dangerous

by Melanie Mignucci

If you’ve been following the current abortion debate ridiculousness that’s been happening in this country, you’re well aware of the arbitrary restrictions and limits placed on abortion providers. Trans-vaginal ultrasounds, mandatory waiting periods, access to a surgical center for what is little more than an outpatient procedure; these measures pretend like they aim to protect the mother, but only protect the conservative values of the loudmouthed congressmen who champion them.

Bans of abortions of pregnancies past 20 weeks of gestation are the impediments du jour to a woman’s right to an abortion, but scientifically hold no water. Dr. Anne Davis, a second-trimester abortion provider and associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, told Salon that “the part of the brain that perceives pain is not connected to the part of the body that receives pain signals until about 26 weeks from the last menstrual period, which is about 24 weeks from conception.”

This means that any ‘evidence’ that ‘proves’ that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks is total bunk:  fetal “flinching” during amniocentesis, for example, is an automatic response to stimuli, and not ‘proof’ of its feeling pain. A fetus at 20 weeks can’t feel anything at all, much less process in the way a child would be able to.

(That being said, a pinprick at 20 weeks hurts a lot less than a lifetime of painful disability, surgeries, and early death, or the lifetime trauma of being born to a mother who can’t or won’t take care of her kid.)

Boss lady Wendy Davis fighting for abortion rights in the worst li’l statehouse in Texas

The justification for laws like the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” the “Fetal Pain Law,” or the “Anti-Baby Torture Act” (I made that last one up, but give it time) is fundamentally flawed.

Almost a dozen state legislatures ban abortions after 20 weeksSalon reports, except in the case that the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother – a situation that often develops after 20 weeks of gestation. This means, in a very, very stupid move, that doctors must wait until the mother is sick to terminate the pregnancy that made her sick in the first place.

“If you did that under any other circumstance, it would be wild negligence,” Davis said. She used the analogy of knowing that a patient would develop a fatal infection, but being unable to proactively treat it. “What kind of doctor would you be?” 

20-week bans forbid doctors from being doctors. They threaten the life of the mother and the child. So why are these laws still being routinely passed around the country and around the world? 

“Your baby has fingernails!”

The fetal pain argument appeals to the emotional side of abortion procurement – a woman is less likely to abort a fetus if there’s a question that “my baby will feel pain.” Like the argument that cements Juno MacGuff’s to carry her baby to term (“Babies have fingernails!”), the idea that an amniotic-sac bound mass of cells is just like you or me humanizes it and makes the decision personal – not that having an abortion isn’t already hugely emotionally traumatic.

 What the politicians who believe these laws don’t understand is that pro-choice doesn’t mean anti-life – everyone, and maybe I’m generalizing, but I think you’ll agree with me, is pro-life. Every mother wants the best for her child. But sometimes the best isn’t life. And until politicians get behind that idea, mothers will continue to be endangered by the very laws engineered to protect them.

Thanks to Salon

Photos from UMPC and Human Events

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