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National Right to Life Responds to Unborn Pain Study

Sep 9, 2011 | 2011 Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of 50 state right-to-life groups and more than 3,000 local chapters, responded to a study on unborn pain published yesterday in the journal “Current Biology.” The following may be attributed to Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., NRLC director of state legislation:

This study focuses on the maturation of the cerebral cortex’s capacity to differentiate touch from pain.  It does not, however, address the substantial medical evidence (documented at www.doctorsonfetalpain.com/fetal-pain-the-evidence) that in the brain it is the thalamus, rather than the cerebral cortex, that is principally responsible for pain perception.  While the cerebral cortex may affect reaction to and modulation of perceived pain, children born missing most of the cerebral cortex, those with hydranancephaly, nevertheless experience pain – and in adults, stimulation or ablation of the cerebral cortex does not alter pain perception, while stimulation or ablation of the thalamus does.

One noteworthy finding in the study, however, is that it found no difference in perception or neural reaction to pain based on whether the infant was awake or asleep.  This calls into question one of the central claims of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’s Working Group, that unborn children are in a sleep-like state that, the Group argued, prevented them from feeling pain.

The abstract of the study is available here: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2811%2900885-2.

Founded in 1968, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of 50 state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, is the nation’s oldest and largest national grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement, NRLC works through legislation and education to protect innocent human life from abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.