New York Times Presents Case for Unborn Child Pain

By Doug Carlson
Feb 19, 2008

The evidence that unborn children feel pain during abortions performed after 20 weeks gestation caught the attention of the pro-life community several years ago, but not until recently has it been given fair treatment by the mainstream media.

In the Feb. 10 edition of the New York Times Magazine, a weekly publication of the newspaper bearing its name and known for its left-leaning viewpoints, a lengthy article entitled “The First Ache” seeks to answer the question of whether unborn babies can experience pain.

The response of Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, one of those interviewed for the story, is quite compelling. Dr. Anand, now a professor and pediatrician, argues passionately from his years of experience and study that by 20 weeks gestation, when all pain receptors are in place but still in raw form, unborn children are especially sensitive to pain. He and others avow that between 20 and 30 weeks pain receptors are at their highest density per square inch of skin.

Dr. Anand earned national attention in 2004, when he testified in one of three federal trials on the constitutionality of the 2003 federal ban on partial-birth abortion, which was upheld last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. When asked whether an unborn child could feel pain during the procedure, he responded, “If the fetus is beyond 20 weeks gestation, I would assume that there will be pain caused to the fetus,” adding, “And I believe it will be severe and excruciating pain.”

Perhaps equally eye-opening is that Dr. Anand is not the stereotypical pro-lifer. Rather, he believes that abortions should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

His investigative journey on unborn child pain began decades ago as a medical resident in a neonatal intensive care unit. He noticed that preterm infants came out of the operating room in far poorer condition than when they entered—with grayish skin, shallow breathing, and weak pulses, according to the New York Times Magazine. His clinical studies later revealed that infants given anesthesia—something regularly denied to infants at the time—came out of surgery in much better condition and even had higher survival rates.

A second interviewee for the story, Dr. Nicholas Fisk, who directs the University of Queensland Center for Clinical Research in Australia, shifted from his longstanding disbelief in unborn child pain after conducting some research of his own.

He found that unborn babies as young as 18 weeks react to invasive procedures with spikes in stress hormones and disruptions in blood flow to the brain. In another study, conducted on 45 unborn babies requiring blood transfusions, he found those who received anesthesia produced half the stress hormones and maintained normal patterns of blood flow. That was evidence enough to convince him.

Another anesthesiologist, Ray Paschall of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, changed his thinking through firsthand experience and affirmed what others in medicine have been claiming for years. After seeing unborn babies recoil at the touch of a scalpel in seeming pain during endoscopic surgery, he has since increased anesthetic dosages. Some 200 operations later, he contends, none of the babies has shown signs of experiencing pain.

To be sure, the article also underscored the fact that skeptics still remain. Nevertheless, the mounting evidence that unborn children 20 weeks old, or possibly even younger, feel pain during abortions gives further credence to the sanctity of each human life. It should come as no surprise that medical research confirms what God states in His Word: He knits each life together from the moment of conception, and each life is precious.

But until abortion on demand becomes U.S. history rather than U.S. policy, the pro-life community should work to lessen the pain of babies who are aborted.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) have been at the forefront of this battle at the federal level. The two have introduced the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (S. 356/H.R. 3442) in each Congress since 2004. It would require that an abortion provider inform a woman seeking an abortion after 20 weeks fertilization that there is substantial evidence that the unborn child will feel pain during the abortion. The abortion provider would also be required to provide the woman the option of administering pain-reducing drugs directly to the baby.

If you support this legislation, please tell your senators and representative to add their names as cosponsors of the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, if they have not done so already.

Further Learning

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