Tuesday June 29, 2010

Report Debunking Fetal Pain Shows ‘Stunning Lack of Scholarship’: NRLC

By Patrick B. Craine

LONDON, U.K., June 29, 2010 ( – A newly-released report from the London-based Royal College Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) purporting to show that unborn children do not feel pain before 24 weeks has made international headlines in the last few days. But according to pro-life leaders, the study ignores key evidence and is little more than an attempt by abortion advocates to deceive the public.

The issue of fetal pain received significant exposure earlier this year in the U.S. after a landmark law was enacted in April by the Nebraska legislature restricting abortion after twenty weeks. The so-called “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” was a response to the growing consensus that the unborn feel pain by that age, if not earlier.

In the U.K. abortion for social reasons is restricted past the 24th week of gestation (eugenic abortions are permitted up until birth), although there have been discussions in the last few years about dropping that limit by 2-4 weeks. Such a move has been endorsed by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said in April that, “I think the way medical science and technology have developed in the past few decades does mean an upper limit of 20 or 22 weeks would be sensible.” However, the new report by RCOG is being latched onto by anti-life forces as evidence that there is no “scientific” reason to reduce the abortion limit.

But Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), says that, “An objective expert in neurobiology would be appalled by the stunning lack of scholarship in the RCOG article.”

She noted that one of the authors is actually an abortionist, while the rest are largely abortion advocates.

The authors of the report dismiss the notion of fetal pain prior to 24 weeks based on the fact that the unborn lack a complete nerve connection to the cerebral cortex before 24 weeks. But Spaulding Balch said this ignores the seminal 2007 study from the medical journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences entitled “Consciousness without a cerebral cortex.”

According to that study even “children born missing virtually all of the cerebral cortex nonetheless experience pain,” she said.

“Ironically, the article concedes the evidence that by 20 weeks pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s skin,” she continued, “that these are linked by nerves to the thalamus and the subcortal plate, and that these children have coordinated aversive reactions to painful stimuli, and experience increased stress hormones from it.”

Paul Tully, general secretary for the London-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), observed that the 24-week limit on social abortion is a “red herring” in any case.

“The RCOG’s claim about babies not feeling pain before 24 weeks begs the question: Why do abortion doctors keep making this point when they support the abortion of babies up till birth?”

Tully says the suggestion that doctors performing abortions are not causing the child pain by killing him or her is simply “a way of denying that what they are doing is evil and they know it.”

“The RCOG is trying to find a comfort zone for its members. It is not concerned about the rights and the lives of the babies killed.”

“The RCOG knows better than most people how marvellous, sensitive, complex and beautiful these babies are at every stage of development from conception onwards,” he said. “Life does not start halfway through a pregnancy, it starts at conception.”

Find the RCOG report here.

See related coverage:

Nebraska Enacts First-Ever Abortion Ban Based on Fetal Pain


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