Thursday April 8, 2010

Nebraska Moves Ahead with Abortion Ban Based on Fetal Pain

By Peter J. Smith

OMAHA, Nebraska, April 8, 2010 ( – The Nebraska legislature is getting ready for its second vote on a measure that would ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation on the basis of fetal pain. If passed and signed into law, the legislation could pose a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, because it applies a different standard for restricting abortion than the one used by the Supreme Court.

The “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (LB 1103), authored by Speaker Mike Flood, has already won its first round of approval in the Unicameral, Nebraska’s legislative body, by a vote of 38 – 5. A second reading on the bill is expected to take place soon as there are only six days remaining before the legislature concludes its work for the 2010 legislative year.

Julie Schmit-Albin, Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life, told (LSN) that Nebraska Right to Life “strongly supports” the passage of LB 1103. She added that in Nebraska “livestock or the family pets” get far better treatment than unborn children, “especially those in LeRoy Carhart’s Bellevue abortion facility.”

Carhart is known for performing abortions through 24 weeks in Nebraska.

“Nebraska has a right in protecting unborn children who feel pain and who are subjected to excruciatingly horrible deaths at the hands of abortionists,” said Schmit-Albin.

She also expressed confidence that Gov. Dave Heineman would sign LB 1103 into law, saying “He has stated his support for this legislation.”

The prospective law bans abortions after 20 weeks of post-fertilization age and has only two exceptions: first, where the mother’s life is in danger of death or she faces “substantial and irreversible” physical harm to a major bodily function. A recent amendment to the bill also allows an abortionist to perform abortions – such as “selective reduction” of multiples or the abortion of a conjoined twin – only for the sake of increasing the probability of a live birth, or to preserve an unborn child’s life and health after a live birth.

Although the topic of fetal pain is still under much discussion (and controversy, owing to its implications to the abortion debate) a growing consensus of medical knowledge has pointed to the fact that unborn infants experience pain.

Work in the area of fetal pain pioneered by medical doctors like Kanwaljeet “Sunny” Anand, now a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, indicates that the unborn child responds to painful stimuli by 20 weeks and possibly earlier. Anand was called as an expert witness to testify in 2004 on the federal partial birth abortion ban, and said that after 20 weeks gestation, an unborn child would experience “severe and excruciating pain” from an abortion.

The measure under consideration by the Unicameral says that Nebraska has a “compelling state interest” in protecting the lives of unborn children at this age of gestation owing to the “substantial medical evidence [which] indicates that they are capable of feeling pain.”

It notes that unborn children have been observed to “seek to evade certain stimuli” in a manner that “would be interpreted as a response to pain.” Additionally, the bill says that they were also observed to show “hormonal stress responses to painful stimuli” that were reduced with the application of pain medication.

Abortionists who break the law would face a Class IV felony charge, which carries a penalty of a five year maximum prison sentence, $10,000 fine, or both.

The bill would allow women and even the fathers of aborted unborn children to sue and seek damages from abortionists who violate the law.

The law, if passed and signed into law, would become operative on October 15, 2010.

See related article discussing various perspectives on fetal pain in the New York Times magazine: “The First Ache”