On the Anniversary of Gosnell Conviction, Let's Pass a Fetal Pain Ban

Arina Grossu is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Townhall.com on May 13, 2015.

Two years ago on May 13th, late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of first degree murder in the deaths of three infants and involuntary manslaughter of Karnamaya Mongar, a young woman he butchered during an abortion. While he was convicted on only four counts, hundreds of similar incidents were reported. He was also convicted of twenty-one felony counts of illegal late-term abortion beyond Pennsylvania’s twenty–four week abortion limit.

Gosnell “specialized” in killing late-term infants. He induced labor, delivered them alive, and killed them by snipping their spinal cords with scissors. One of his staff, Sherry West, reported that she heard a baby scream. Another worker, Lynda Williams, saw a baby jump and lift his arm as she snipped his neck and testified that she witnessed Gosnell snip the necks of at least 30 babies. Other employees said they saw about 100 babies born alive and dealt the same cruel fate. Among the dead was Mongar’s 19-week old baby.

Were these babies able to feel pain? Without dispute.

After a persistent media blackout that one Washington Post reporter infamously justified by relegating it to a “local crime story,” when lurid details came out during the trial the general public was aghast by the suffering these babies endured.

Science reveals that biologically speaking, by 20 weeks post-fertilization babies can feel pain. Doctors know this. It is common practice for doctors to give anesthesia to babies before they perform in-utero fetal surgery because these babies can feel pain. Numerous studies show that an unborn baby will react with a hormonal stress response to a painful stimulus by 20 weeks post-fertilization. They will move away from the painful stimulus as a human of any age would. Further, babies at this age have more pain receptors close to the skin’s surface than infants and adults, and can feel pain to a higher degree because the mechanisms that inhibit pain do not develop until later.

Details from the jury report revealed that the children suffered a cruel death. Pain-capable babies were ruthlessly killed. Yet Gosnell was not an outlier. There are other late-term abortionists who continue to kill pain-capable babies every day. A society professing to be civilized must put an end to this barbaric practice.

Public opinion polls decisively show that Americans do not stand with late-term abortion. A November 2014 Quinnipac poll revealed that 60 percent of Americans support a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point by which a preborn baby can feel pain.

The House is set to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36) with new language finally wrangled out after several months of literal in-house fighting. It’s high time that we vote and pass a fetal pain ban and get America out of the awful club of seven countries that allow abortions after 20 weeks. The lives of 13,000 American babies a year depend on it.