NRL News

New York Times weighs in on fetal pain debate

by | Sep 17, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. Scott Adzick

Dr. Scott Adzick

The capacity of the unborn child to experience pain in all likelihood poses as great a danger to the reign of Roe v. Wade as anything we’ve seen in 40 years.

Medical science for decades has treated the unborn as a patient. That makes pro-abortionists nervous enough. But what if part and parcel of treating the unborn as a patient is the mounting evidence that by no later than 20 weeks she or he can experience pain?

But if fetal pain is as much of a threat as I believe it is, you knew eventually the New York Times would run a lengthy piece “debunking” fetal pain under an innocuous sounding headline such as “Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain.” Which is what it did yesterday.

We’ve written about this dozens of times, most recently at “The Pseudo-Science behind pro-abortion critiques of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” and “All you pretty much need to know about the reality of fetal pain in one story.”  So let me make just a couple of points, rather than rehearse the rebuttals found in the stories above.

#1. Pam Belluck writes, “The science of fetal pain is highly complex. Most scientists who have expressed views on the issue have said they believe that if fetuses can feel pain, the neurological wiring is not in place until later, after the time when nearly all abortions occur.” Notice two things. First, the nod towards those who believe the child cannot experience pain at all until AT LEAST after she or he is born, if not later. This gives new meaning to the word “deniers.” Second, a retreat to the ultimate pro-abortion fall-back position: only a “few” would die.

#2. “But fetal surgeons say that the drugs are given for reasons other than fetal pain,” Belluck writes. “Anesthesia is given to the mother, reaching the fetus, said Dr. Scott Adzick, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Fetuses receive muscle relaxants and narcotics. The drugs are given to prevent maternal pain, immobilize the fetus, relax the uterus, and block harmful effects of a fetus’s hormonal stress response, he said. Asked if fetuses would feel pain without these drugs, Dr. Adzick said he did not know.”

All those other reasons Dr. Adzick cites for the administration of pain-relieving drugs and then, well, he doesn’t know if the child would experience pain if the drugs were not administered. And at the risk of stating the obvious, how much greater is the baby’s “hormonal stress response” when she is being torn apart?

#3. Belluck cites some of the studies that demonstrate the unborn can feel pain by the 20th week only to dismiss them. There is a lot of evidence to support the conclusion but you’d never know it by the way it is treated. Two of the primary dissenters perform abortions, which is conveniently omitted. And finally

#4. “On both sides, viewpoints continue evolving,” Belluck writes. “Stuart Derbyshire, a psychologist at the National University of Singapore, is a leading voice against the likelihood of fetal pain. Appointed to the British panel, he strongly supports its main conclusion, but increasingly doubts another suggestion in the report, that the uterine environment may keep fetuses in ‘continuous sleeplike unconsciousness or sedation.’ That, he said, was ‘a really appealing argument, but unfortunately I don’t think it quite works.’”

This, presumably, is to be seen as a gesture in the direction of even-handedness. But the only thing Derbyshire won’t swallow whole is one of the most absurd conclusion of the 2010 study by Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists–that even if pain signals reach the fetal cerebral cortex at an early stage, it doesn’t matter, because the “fetus” is not awake!

You can read the story at

Categories: fetal pain