August 23, 2005
Fetuses and pain
Another “pro-life” myth bites the dust:
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) – A review of medical evidence has found that fetuses likely don’t feel pain until the final months of pregnancy, a powerful challenge to abortion opponents who hope that discussions about fetal pain will make women think more about ending pregnancies.
The review by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco comes as advocates are pushing for fetal pain laws aimed at curtailing abortion. Proposed federal legislation would require doctors to provide fetal pain information to women seeking abortions when fetuses are at least 20 weeks old, and to offer women fetal anesthesia at that stage of the pregnancy. A handful of states have enacted similar measures.
But the report, appearing in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association, says that offering fetal pain relief during abortions in the fifth or sixth months of pregnancy is misguided and might result in unacceptable health risks to women.
… The researchers reviewed dozens of studies and medical reports and said the data indicate that fetuses likely are incapable of feeling pain until around the seventh month of pregnancy, when they are about 28 weeks old.
While brain structures involved in feeling pain begin forming much earlier, research indicates they likely do not function until the pregnancy’s final stages, said the report’s senior author, UCSF obstetric anesthesiologist Dr. Mark Rosen.
The religious right, who’ve never seen a scientific study they couldn’t debunk with a fact-free fantasy, will of course be all over this—particularly as they currently have a measure pending in Congress that would affect about 18,000 U.S. abortions a year performed after the fifth month of pregnancy. The good news is that with the California study on the table, that (already long-shot) legislation is now dead.
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