NRL News

Hot words but little evidence behind pro-abortion criticisms of Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

by | Aug 8, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

FetalPain091604aProbably because I’d already read a preposterous rewriting of the history of abortion in the United States, by the time I sat down this afternoon to peruse two diatribes against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, I was even less in a mood to suffer fools gladly than usual.

Disagree—that’s fine. But to label the assertion that the unborn child can experience pain by the 20th week a “lie” and “phony science” (the words are Katie McDonough’s but they are hardly unique to her) is simply to substitute overheated rhetoric for a dispassionate assessment of the evidence.

Which, of course, McDonough flatly states “there really isn’t any.” Really? No evidence? None?

She could take a few minutes out and go to That’s a good start.

Then for more of the extensive evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks fetal age, McDonough could click on

The science behind the findings in the congressional Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 1797) was explored at a May 23 congressional hearing. If she was looking for evidence, the testimony of the witnesses is posted at

In other words, there is a great deal of evidence supporting the conclusion that by 20 weeks the unborn baby will experience horrific pain when torn apart.

Who does McDonough (writing for rely on? Dr. Anne Davis, a second-trimester abortion “provider,” associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, who told McDonough, “We know a lot about embryology [in the field]. The way that a fetus grows and develops hasn’t changed and never will.”

But does that mean that we know everything there is to know NOW about how the unborn child “grows and develops”? Did we know everything there is to know about how the unborn child “grows and develops” when the standard criticisms were cranked out several years ago? The answer to both is obviously no.

It is, to put it mildly,ironic that the same people who accuse us of being “anti-science” act as if we can never learn anything new.

So, please, at least treat us like thinking adults.

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Then there is the analysis written by Nora Caplan-Bricker, an assistant editor at The New Republic which goes even further. Read this carefully. (The “him” is abortionist Leroy Carhart):

“NRLC saw an opportunity to stop him in unfounded claims about fetal pain, and in so doing, stumbled on an artificial, pre-Roe barrier to abortion that hewed closely to Americans’ intuitions.

“But we can’t allow our intuitions to be manipulated so easily. Viability is a firm line, grounded in biological fact. ‘Fetal pain’ is an arbitrary, unscientific line that abortion opponents have only drawn in the hopes that soon, they can push it farther back.

Fetal viability is NOT a firm line. Thanks to medical breakthroughs the point of viability has moved back and back and back. Fetal pain is not arbitrary. It’s an acknowledgement that we know much more than we did just a few years ago, including what specifically it is that the unborn must possess in order to experience pain. If the latter understanding has changed—and it has—there is even more scientific evidence to back up the assertion that by 20 weeks, if not earlier, the unborn child can feel pain.

By the way, those “intuitions” that Americans are prone to? She’s talking about how we instinctively recoil when we pause to think about taking the life of a large, increasingly developed 20-week-old unborn child. Those “intuitions” are a reflection of our baseline humanity.

But to be fair, there are abortion supporting reporters who can write, if not a balanced article, at least one that gives a nod to the evidence that exists to support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. One example is “The Uncertain Science of Fetal Pain,” by Michelle Goldberg which I will look at in depth tomorrow.

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Categories: fetal pain