Let's Start Treating Humans Humanely

Arina Grossu is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Townhall.com on October 29, 2014.

Imagine being torn apart, limb from limb until you bled to death. That would be excruciating pain, right? This is not a mere cruel thought about the medieval act of quartering. A modern day punishment is being inflicted on innocent, vulnerable human beings who can feel pain. The 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case of Stenberg v. Carhart reveals the ugly reality of abortion of pain-capable pre-born children via dismemberment, where the child’s arms and legs are twisted off by the abortionist using a steel clamp. Dr. Carhart, the abortionist on trial, confirmed that the preborn child can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while her limbs are being torn off.

The vast majority of almost 13,000 American pre-born babies who are 19 weeks post-fertilization and older will die each year by this abortion method. We cringe at the thought of such cruel mistreatment of animals, so much so that currently commercial livestock have more legal protection from pain in a slaughterhouse than do pre-born children. How can we allow this painful, barbaric practice on humans to continue in this country?

There is substantial medical and scientific evidence that by at least 20 weeks post-fertilization, all of the nervous system structures necessary for a pre-born child to feel severe pain are present. This includes the physical anatomy, physiology, neurobiology, and hormones to transmit painful sensations from the skin, up the spinal cord and to the brain, where pain is interpreted as such.


In various scientific tests, pre-born children of 20 weeks post-fertilization and younger react to invasive and painful stimuli such as being prodded with a needle, by increasing stress hormone production, making vigorous movements, increasing breathing efforts, and trying to avoid the needle.


Furthermore, between 18 and 28 weeks post-fertilization, a pre-born child has more pain receptors per square inch of skin than at any other time in his or her life, with only a very thin layer of skin for protection, leaving nerve fibers closer to the surface. The body’s mechanisms that lessen the experience of pain do not begin to develop until weeks 30-32 post-fertilization, so any pain the pre-born child experiences before that time is more intense than the pain an older infant or adult experiences when exposed to similar painful experiences.


Why else are pre-born children routinely given anesthesia during prenatal surgery, per anesthesiology textbooks’ instruction? When anesthesia is administered to these youngest of patients, a decrease in stress hormones is observed, just as in adults.


Thirteen states and the U.S. House of representatives have wised up and passed bans on abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization precisely because by this time babies can feel pain. Seven more states have enacted informed consent laws regarding fetal pain, requiring women to receive information about pain in the pre-born. Nationally, we must pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It passed in the House in June 2013. The bill has 40 cosponsors in the Senate, but unfortunately no Senate Democrats have stepped up to the plate in defense of pain-capable pre-born children.


States have a compelling interest in protecting the lives of pre-born children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that these children are capable of experiencing pain.


In poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly agree on setting abortion bans for pain-capable pre-born children. For example, a July 2013 Huffington Post poll found that by a margin of 59 percent to 30 percent, respondents said they would favor a federal law banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy [18 weeks post-fertilization]. In March 2013 the Polling Company poll found in a nationwide poll that 64 percent would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks. Women voters were split 63 percent to 31 percent in support of such a law.

It is unthinkable that children like Lucas (born at 21 weeks post-fertilization) are being dismembered by the thousands in America. It is barbaric and cruel to expose our youngest, most defenseless members of society to a procedure that causes excruciating pain. Here’s a thought: Let’s start treating humans humanely.