Senators, it's your turn to protect pain-capable unborn babies

Arina Grossu is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Hill on June 18, 2015.

Last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and 44 other original co-sponsors introduced the Senate version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1553). Last month, identical legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 242-184.

This comes on the heels of a recent study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine which shows that babies, if treated, can survive after being born at just 20 weeks post-fertilization.

A recent story in the New York Times bears out this study: a number of babies who were born prematurely at 20 weeks post-fertilization survived after receiving medical intervention. The article chronicles the story of Micah, born at 20 weeks post-fertilization in 2012 and Alexis, born at 22 weeks in 2010, who are now living healthy lives.

Another baby, Mac, was also born at just 20 weeks post-fertilization in Canada in February. Because of medical intervention and his mother’s loving touch, Mac is growing and healthy. The same babies who can now survive outside the womb by 20 weeks post-fertilization, science reveals can also feel intense pain.

The same babies who can respond positively to touch at that age, inside or outside the womb, can also feel excruciating pain. This is not rocket science, but it is science. In fact, if poked or prodded, a five month-old baby in the womb will react with an increased hormonal stress response, as any of us would at the experience of pain.

Doctors are fully aware of the five month-old unborn child’s capacity for pain. It is routine practice for doctors to give anesthesia to babies this age before they perform in-utero fetal surgery. Babies at this age have more pain receptors close to the skin’s surface than do infants and adults, and can feel pain to a higher degree because the mechanisms that inhibit pain do not develop until later.

Even NARAL, the pro-abortion group, admitted that babies can feel pain at this age. In a May 31 fundraising letter sent out by the group in opposition to the 20-week ban, a spokesperson for NARAL, Dana Weinstein, said that she and her husband “chose to end our baby's pain.” She inadvertently admitted that their unborn child who was at least 18 weeks post-fertilization and who had fetal anomalies felt pain. This same pain-capable baby suffered the excruciating and inhumane pain of a late-term abortion.

Most of the world opposes late-term abortions. How did America end up in a club of only seven countries, along with China and North Korea, in allowing abortions after 20 weeks? In America, we have more protections against cruelty for animals than we do for our unborn children. It’s inhumane and it’s not right. Late-term abortion should not be a legally sanctioned procedure.

The vast majority of Americans agree. A January 2015 Marist poll revealed that 84 percent of Americans agree there should be significant restrictions on abortion including limits to within the first three months of pregnancy, allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, or never permitted. A November 2014 Quinnipiac poll further revealed that 60 percent of Americans support a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point by which an unborn baby can feel pain.

Each year, approximately 13,000 American brothers and sisters in the womb die a very painful death due to late-term abortion after the 20-week mark. Babies of the same age, including Micah, Alexis, and Mac, are being saved in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

In a May 2012 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Dr. Colleen Malloy, Assistant Professor for the Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University, said, “There is no reason to believe that a born infant would feel pain any differently than that same infant were he or she still in utero.”

Our national conscience can’t withstand such a discrepancy between the care we give pain-capable children of the same age: those we treat and the ones we allow to die a cruel and painful death by late-term abortion. Senators, it’s your turn now to protect all pain-capable babies.