According to new research conducted by scientists in the UK, unborn babies may be capable of registering feelings of pain as early as 13 weeks into the gestation process. If true, this bombshell discovery could have wide-ranging ramifications on the abortion industry, which has relied on previous science that says fetuses are incapable of feeling pain before the 24-week mark. If not a crushing blow to the legality of abortion, the news will almost certainly lead to a new round of debate about the inhumanity of this practice.
It’s important to recognize that these medical researchers did not come from a place of pro-life bias. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of them, British professor Stuart Derbyshire, has a long history of pro-choice advocacy, and he has even worked as a consultant for Planned Parenthood. In a paper from 2006, Derbyshire said it was irresponsible for doctors to speak to women about the pain unborn babies might feel through abortion: “It’s sound policy based on good evidence that fetuses cannot experience pain.”
In their new research, however, both Derbyshire and his partner, American medical expert John Bockmann, say that earlier conclusions about fetal pain could be wrong. The pair say that ignoring new evidence to the contrary or “acting as if we have certainty” in this area “flirts with moral recklessness.” They say, at minimum, women looking to obtain abortions should be told by their doctors that the procedure could be painful for their unborn child.
The research centers around development of the cortex, the outer layer of the brain which is concerned with processing sensory information. Because fetal cortex development is still in its early stages as of the 24-week mark, scientists took this as evidence that unborn children of this age would not be able to feel or process anything comparable to the pain we experience outside the womb. However, given studies of adults with severely damaged cortexes that show that these people are still able to feel pain, doubts have been creeping in about the earlier conclusions regarding fetal development.
“Given the evidence that the fetus might be able to experience something like pain during later abortions, it seems reasonable that the clinical team and the pregnant woman are encouraged to consider fetal analgesia,” the scientists write.
Calling for doctors to administer pain relievers to fetuses before aborting them is a long way from recommending an end to the practice, but it is nonetheless a step in the right direction. It moves us ever-so-slightly away from the left’s “oh, it’s just a blob of tissue” argument and into a realm where we can rationally consider the inherent humanity of…well, an undeveloped human being.