Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. - Romans 12:12

British Study: Unborn Children Feel Pain Earlier September 4, 2001

British Study: Unborn Children Feel Pain Earlier Source: Associated Press, London Daily Telegraph; August 31, 2001 London, England -- A study released this week in the United Kingdom suggests that an unborn child might feel pain as early as 20 weeks. "This study underscores the gruesome nature of abortion," charges Kristi Hamrick of The Center for Reclaiming America, which is joining with other pro-life groups next week to launch a campaign to bring a ban on partial-birth abortion back in front of Congress this session. According to reports, the head the government-appointed Medical Research Council at Edinburgh University in the United Kingdom said an unborn child was absolutely aware of pain by 24 weeks and perhaps as early as 20 weeks -- earlier than the previously accepted 26 weeks. The Medical Research Council, chaired by Professor Eve Johnstone of Edinburgh University, makes a strong case for additional research on ways to prevent the unnecessary suffering of extremely premature children. Prof Johnstone said these babies had to undergo painful procedures, such as heel pricks, blood monitoring, injections and insertion of breathing tubes. "We ought to study this carefully." The findings indicate a need for more research on ways to treat neonatal pre-term infants, who may experience pain from a number of medical procedures that could affect them in long-term development. And the study raises questions over whether and which pre-term babies ought to be given anesthetics in the womb during birth. But the study also provides new fuel for the debate over abortion, in particular late-term abortions. Hamrick says she believes life occurs at conception and must be protected thereafter and says that the Edinburgh study can only help her cause. "It does not change the fact that (anywhere) along the pendulum swing (from conception to birth) this is still a human being," she said. "But this information is helpful to bringing our country to a consensus on where we should draw some lines." Dr. Susan Dudley, deputy director of the National Abortion Federation, a network of abortion businesses, said fetal pain is a complex issue that is far from fully understood. Whether or not the unborn child can feel pain -- at 26 weeks, 20 weeks or earlier -- the vast majority of abortions today are conducted in the first trimester and groups like NAF will continue to support abortion, she said. "The obvious and most important thing to say is most abortions take place before 20 weeks," Dudley said. Even if the Edinburgh study is accurate, she said, "it would have very little impact on people who are contemplating an abortion." The new report by the MRC working group attacks the idea that pain perception suddenly switches on in the foetus, or is due to activity in a particular brain area. Pain perception requires interactions among highly interdependent brain areas. "Such function will not 'switch' on at a particular stage of fetal life... It will mature over many pre- and post-natal months to produce complete pain awareness," said the report. [ September 4, 2001] Reprinted with permission by is a daily compilation of pro-life news and information. To subscribe, visit

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