SAN FRANCISCO, August 25, 2005 ( – The mainstream media areÂreporting on a “study” (actually, an interpretation of existing medical literature) published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The authors argue that there is no good evidence that unborn humans feel pain before the third trimester (after 29 weeks gestational age).Â

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) points out that “Most of these stories have failed to report important information on the origins of this ‘study.’ The lead author, Susan J. Lee, is a medical student and former NARAL employee.”

The connection to pro-abortion activism doesn’t end there. The Knight Ridder news service reveals that one of the physician authors, Eleanor Drey, is the director of an abortion clinic in San Francisco. Dr. Drey is also on the staff of the Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy, a pro-abortion advocacy center at the University of California-San Francisco.Â

JAMA editor-in-chief Catherine D. DeAngelis told Knight Ridder she was unaware of the authors’ connections, and acknowledged it might create an appearance of bias that could hurt the journal’s credibility. “This is the first I’ve heard about it,” she said. “We ask them to reveal any conflict of interest. I would have published” the disclosure if it had been made.

Fetal pain laws are being proposed in many jurisdictions as a means of slowing down the abortion rate and, in the words of one Minnesota pro-life lobbyist, to remind the public of the humanity of the unborn.

Numerous other studies have shown that children start feeling pain as early as 20 weeks, with UK pain experts demanding that anaesthesia be used for any surgical procedure beginning at the 18th week of development.

Reuters quotes Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, a fetal pain researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences saying, “This is going to inflame a lot of scientists who are very, very concerned and are far more knowledgeable in this area than the authors appear to be. This is not the last wordâEUR¦definitely not.”

However, for pro-lifers, the pain issue, although very likely a brutal reality in many abortions, is beside the point. Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life said, “There are many painless ways to kill both born and unborn. That doesn’t make it right.”

Jim Hughes, President of the International Right to Life Federation, concurred with Fr. Pavone, saying, “Of course this is important work and we need to know at what point the various physical systems are in place. But about abortion this really is a side issue. Abortion kills an innocent child, that’s what makes it wrong, not whether the child feels pain in the process.”

The columnist and blogger at Catholic World News, Diogenes, said that issue is really a smoke screen for politicians. Responding to Rosen’s comment Diogenes wrote, “If you’re going to kill the child anyway, why worry that it’s going to feel pain?”

The fact that so many scientists and politicians are so interested in proving that the unborn cannot feel pain is a strong indicator that the discussion and research on the issue is about finding justification for preserving the legal status quo on restriction-free abortion.

Diogenes asks the rhetorical question about what the discussion of fetal pain really means. “Can a ‘blob of tissue’ feel pain? Or are we staring at yet another clear piece of medical evidence showing that the thing inside the womb is a fellow human being?”