The Suzy B Blog

Aug 7, 2013
Assessing Fetal Pain: A Response

A recent New York Times article appraised the fetal pain argument as a legitimate base work for abortion legislation. The article correctly pointed out that “one recent poll” found a majority of people would draw the line for abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy. I would add that a number of polls further corroborate this finding. Polling by Quinnipiac, National Journal, Huffington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post/ABC News have all found that either a plurality or majority of Americans support limiting abortion after 20 weeks gestation, and that women support the measure in higher numbers than men. The tremendous public support for this common ground limit has provided momentum key to its success.

While the Times piece provides an excellent background on the strategy and history of the legislation, there remain two points that are misleading.

First, the author states that fetal pain laws are “based on disputed scientific theories” and that “most scientists and medical associations say that perception of pain is impossible without brain developments that occur well after 20 weeks.” But there is in fact much evidence to support the claim that babies feel pain.

Pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body by no later than 16 weeks after fertilization, and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks. The particular “brain development” that does not occur until after 20 weeks is the cerebral cortex. However, there is substantial evidence that the thalamus—not the cerebral cortex—is principally responsible for pain perception. In fact, in adults, excision/ removal of the cerebral cortex does not alter pain perception, but excision/ removal of the thalamus does.

Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand of the University of Tennessee stated in his report accepted as expert by a federal judge, “It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.” This is due to the extremely vulnerable stage the baby is at in its development. Dr. Paul Ranalli, a neurologist at the University of Toronto, explains, “The pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop.” This explanation makes sense given that doctors administer anesthesia in utero

Dr. Colleen Malloy of Northwestern University summarizes the core of the debate in her expert testimony before the House Judiciary Committee: “There is no reason to believe that a born infant would feel pain any differently than that same infant were he or she still in utero. Thus, the difference between fetal and neonatal pain is simply the locale in which the pain occurs. The receiver’s experience of the pain is the same.”

The second claim that requires clarification is that post-viability abortions are illegal. The author says, “The Supreme Court, including Justice Kennedy, has repeatedly affirmed viability as the point at which the state’s interest in protecting life outweighs a woman’s right to control her body.” But in practice this standard has been grossly applied. The Guttmacher Institute points out that a majority of states permit abortion post viability to preserve the life or health of the woman. This is a deceivingly moderate standard given that “health” includes a vast range of mental health exceptions (including “mental distress”), and – arguably tellingly – that “fetal viability” is to be defined by each individual physician. 

Notorious late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart has been caught on video saying he performs elective post-viability abortions. Live Action films recorded Carhart saying that he would do an abortion on a 26 week old baby – and Carhart acknowledges that if the baby were to be born that day, it would have had a 50-50 chance of surviving.

Guttmacher reports that in 2011, 18,185 abortions were performed at or after 21 weeks gestational age. That is 18,185 babies subjected to an excruciating procedure that dismembers the baby’s limbs one by one after crushing and suctioning her skull.

 As the New York Times article points out, there is absolutely an upward trend of citizens who support federal legislation that bans barbaric late-term abortions. This is beyond a simple fad or rhetorical appeal to public sentiments. Opposition to late-term abortions is based upon scientific evidence.  It is centered on a profound commitment to protecting human rights.

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Tags: abortion legislation, fetal pain, Late-term abortion
Aug 6, 2013
Pro-Life August Recess Guide

Throughout the month of August, members of Congress are back in their districts on recess.  During this time, especially in odd years without a November election posing an immediate worry, Representatives and Senators hold town halls and meetings with their constituents.  In off-years without November elections, legislation becomes a prime focus of these meetings.  Pro-life activists should attend events in their congressional districts and let their elected officials know that they must stand for women’s health and protect the right to life of their unborn constituents. 

This August, there are two abortion-related issues that are likely to surface in conversations with Members. 

First, recall that the House passed H.R. 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, in June. 

Know how your member voted on this landmark pro-life legislation that will protect pain-capable babies and safeguard the health of women from gruesome late-term abortions.  If your representative supported this bill that will save over 15,000 unborn lives per year, be sure to offer a big THANK YOU and encourage him or her to keep standing up for life.

If your member voted against this commonsense lifesaving legislation, ask why.  Don’t be shy!  Get your representatives to explain their vote.  Look them in the eye and ask why they voted against protecting the lives of unborn children who feel excruciating pain as they are violently killed in late-term abortions.  Ask why they failed to protect women from dangerous late-term abortionists like Kermit Gosnell.

Second, Obamacare.

On October 1, the abortion-funding Obamacare exchanges will go online.  Although few know how the disastrous pro-abortion Obamacare law will operate, one thing we do know is that the exchanges will use taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.  

As Rep. Chris Smith, the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, explained last year, the exchanges are set up on a cheap, dirty, political accounting gimmick that will require pro-life taxpayers to fund abortions without even being informed of it during enrollment. 

Don’t let the state opt-out clause fool you, either: even if your state has opted out of abortion coverage in the exchanges, you will still end up paying for abortions in liberal states.  And what if you, upon realizing that your money is funding abortions, want to opt out?  You’ll have to drop out of your healthcare plan in its entirety.

So tell your representatives to fight Obamacare’s pro-abortion exchanges that will include the largest expansion of abortion in since Roe v. Wade.  Hold their feet to the fire and let them know that you are counting on them to stand resolute for life.  Just as the town halls of August 2009 led to a dramatic swing in public opinion against Obamacare, the town halls of August 2013 can be our moment to expose Obamacare for what it is: a huge expansion of elective abortion, funded by taxpayers.

You can visit the House website and find your Representative by entering your zip code.  Click here for a list of Senators.

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Tags: Congress
Aug 5, 2013
Wendy Davis: Hear Our Voice!

Christina Hadford

This afternoon, state senator Wendy Davis (D-TX)—known for opposing a common ground limit to abortion past 20 weeks in Texas—spoke at the National Press Club luncheon. Davis centered her speech on a laudable theme: the power of one’s voice. She stressed the importance of "speaking for those who can't speak for themselves, and of being true to what they would say."

But, interestingly enough, Davis blatantly disregards her own motto. Late-term abortions involve two people: the mother and the baby. Davis ignores both.

She purports, "Women were turned away, and unable to give their voice on a decision that would have a very large impact on their lives." Yet, at least five national polls—Quinnipiac, National Journal, Huffington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post/ABC News —all found that a plurality or majority of Americans support limiting abortion after 20 weeks gestation, and that women support the measure in higher numbers than men.

Whether or not Davis herself believes that killing a 20 week old baby capable of feeling pain should be legal, polls prove that most women do not believe it should be. Davis claims that women’s “voices are too often drowned out by people who are in power." By fighting so forcefully against a law that more women support than oppose, Davis herself is acting as the agent drowning out the voices of women.

Davis also discounts the voices of the unborn victims of abortion. She continuously reiterates that denying a voice for a segment of our population is one of society’s greatest ills. Yet, Davis conveniently fails to mention over 50 million babies that have been aborted since Roe v. Wade. They have not just been denied a voice, but an entire life.

America has spoken, and their choice is clear. They want legislation that protects women from the Gosnell-style abortion clinics endemic to America; they want to protect the most vulnerable members of society from the barbaric late-term abortion industry; they want to be heard and listened to. Davis has done anything but that. She has used the Texas abortion bill as a political maneuver to obtain quick stardom. So I ask you, Mrs. Davis, please hear my voice and the voices of the plurality of women and children who have expressed similar sentiments: stop subjecting women and children to dangerous abortion practices, and respect our rights to speak for ourselves.

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Tags: abortion legislation, Wendy Davis, women
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