Friday, 26 February 2010

Do Nebraskan Fetuses Feel More Pain Than Their Neighbours?

The bold new front in the anti-choice war -- the bogus science of fetal pain.
A group of lawmakers is pushing to make Nebraska the first state to outlaw most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the argument that the fetus might feel pain during the procedure.

While six other states, those fetus fetishizing heavy-hitters --Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah -- require that women seeking abortion be guilt-tripped with a mandatory lecture including the information that a fetus may feel pain, this would be the first time that fetal pain would determine whether an abortion would be allowed.

Experts testified on both sides of the 'when do fetuses feel pain' question. Anti-choicers were all on the 'you filthy whores are inflicting unimaginable pain on innocent pre-born children' side. (Google 'fetal pain' for a round-up on who's on that side.)

Not surprisingly, the sciency-facty people are on the 'let's look at fetal neurological development, shall we?' side.

Well, shall we?

In 2005, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that found:
A fetus's neurological pathways in its brain that allow for the "conscious perception of pain" do not function until after 28 weeks' gestation.

More science:.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it knows of no legitimate evidence that shows a fetus can experience pain. It says a fetus’ brain begins its final stage of development between the 20th and 40th weeks of pregnancy, and that certain hormones that develop in the final trimester also must be present for it to feel pain. It’s not known exactly when those hormones are formed.

And finally, P.Z. Myers with a straightforward explanation of fetal brain development.

Which is all very interesting, but kinda beside the point. Because the law would probably be found unconstitutional.
Opponents say the bill, if passed into law, would be found unconstitutional if tested. It bans abortions for fetuses who could not live outside the womb and it fails to state a constitutionally recognized state interest - preservation of the potential life and regulation necessary to protect the health of the woman.

So what's really going on here? Besides the usual wanking, I mean.

Well, it seems that the sponsor of the bill had this to say when introducing it:
"With Dr. Leroy Carhart performing and advertising such late-term abortions here in Nebraska, the state needs to recognize the reality of what’s going on," Flood said.

Carhart, 67, has twice challenged abortion bans before the Supreme Court, successfully defeating a Nebraska late-term abortion ban in 2000 because the state didn’t provide for a woman’s health, and losing as part of a broad challenge to the 2007 federal ban on the so-called partial-birth procedures.

Abortion rights proponents are worried anti-abortion groups, by tying Carhart’s name to the current debate, are making him more of a target.

Dr Carhart already has a target painted on his back, his clinic, his home, his family, and his employees, and probably his little dog too. Painted by Operation Scumbag Rescue, moving on from its successful campaign against Dr George Tiller.

Let's run the checklist:
Another impediment to legal abortion? Check.

Manipulate and guilt-trip women? Check.

Target an abortion provider? Check?

Oh, and one more. Caitlin Borgmann, who testified against the bill at the hearing, reports:
At the hearing yesterday, the proponents of Nebraska's bill to ban abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy were asked about the lack of a mental health exception. In response to questions about a woman who is suicidal, they suggested she be treated with electroconvulsive therapy and be confined and restrained for the duration of her pregnancy, rather than be allowed access to abortion.

Torture and imprison women and force them to bear children? Yee-haw!

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