Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Unborn Babies Feel Pain

Of late, there has been increasing debate over whether an unborn baby can feel pain. These discussions have been prompted largely by studies seeking to determine at what point an unborn human being's nervous system is sufficiently developed that when exposed to certain stimuli, the "pain" message is relayed to the brain. There has been strong evidence that pain receptors transmit that message as early as the 14-20th week of gestation, if not earlier.

As many of our supporters know, in 2004-2005 South Dakota Right to Life and other entities were busy circulating petitions expressing our support of the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act which had been brought before the U.S. Congress. The goal of that legislation was to provide women with more complete information about fetal development, as well as to require that women be given the option of anesthetizing their unborn babies prior to an abortion, in order that babies no longer be subjected to the excruciating pain associated with dismemberment.

Earlier this week, it was reported on the BBC News website that a team of researchers at University College London has determined from analyzing brain scans of unborn babies that they can, in fact, feel pain. Their research was conducted on babies 25-45 weeks post-conception.

According to the BBC website,

The scientists registered the brain activity in the babies....before, during and after nurses performed blood tests using a heel lance.

The results showed a surge of blood and oxygen in the sensory area of their brains, meaning the pain was processed in the higher levels of the brain, the team said.

The team claimed the implications of the findings were clear, saying there was a potential for pain experience to influence brain development.

According to the article, a premature baby charity, known as Bliss, said that the findings confirm that unborn babies feel "'true' pain and confirm the need for a protocol for pain for premature babies." They further stated, "....more attention should be paid to providing comfort and relief when painful procedures are undertaken...."

We couldn't agree more. Anything less would be uncivilized.