Monday, September 12, 2011

Fetal Pain, Eventually

For those who are interested, scientific research continues to examine when human life begins.

In 2000, The New Republic's Gregg Easterbrook, reviewing the available evidence, found that faint electrical activity, probably tiny spasms, could be detected in the sixth week of pregnancy. By the 20th week the fetus can kick, probably also mere spasms because the neurons in the fetal cerebral cortex cannot yet function. Lungs are able to function at about the 23rd week and at 26 weeks the cell structure of the fetal brain begins to resemble that of a newborn. Complex brain activity is exhibited in the third trimester as the brain is reasonably well-developed though, one professor of neurology argued, we still don’t know what within the fetal brain corresponds to the kind of awareness and experience that you and I have.”

Easterbrook concluded that abortion should largely be permitted in the first two trimesters and generally prohibited in the third.

In the last two years, however, six states have enacted laws banning abortion after the first twenty weeks of pregnancy on the premise that fetuses feel pain at that point. Or at least upon the claim that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks.

Preemies begin to feel pain around a woman's 35th week of pregnancy, about two to four weeks before delivery, according to a new study from University College London.

Using EEG, researchers recorded the babies' brain activity in response to pain, comparing their pain responses from a touch and prick on the heels. The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

"Babies can distinguish painful stimuli as different from general touch from around 35 to 37 weeks gestation -- just before an infant would normally be born," Lorenzo Fabrizi, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The babies, who were 28 to 35 weeks in the womb, showed the same bursts of brain activity for the touch and the heel lance, but babies at more than 35 weeks' gestation had a greater burst of activity in response to the lance than the simple touch.

The director of the division of newborn medicine at Washington University School of Medicine at St. Louis noted the study "suggests that brain maturation required for fetal pain perception occurs in late pregnancy, more than 11 weeks after the legal limit for abortion in the United States."

This research isn't definitive, of course, but the burden of proof to demonstrate that significant life begins at conception ought to be placed upon the anti-abortion rights community. It will not be, of course, and there is little or no chance of re-examination by the 'fetal pain six'- and "little" is on its way out of town.

1 comment:

Petey Pterodactyl said...

Well, as good as pain is an indicator of humanity imho, it ain't the whole enchilada. Maybe the burden of proof should be on the pro-abortion rights folks to show that the fetus in a woman's womb has a chance of developing into something non-human. A Pterodactyl maybe?

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