Moving the World

By Dave Andrusko

Dave Andrusko, NRL News Today editor

Dave Andrusko, NRL News Today editor

Twelve days until we commemorate the 40th anniversary of a legal monstrosity: Roe v. Wade (along with its companion case, Doe v. Bolton). As we have for weeks, I’m reproducing various articles from National Right to Life News going back to the 1970s. The following ran in the September 2005 edition of the “pro-life newspaper of record.”

I remember reading an essay once that described a well-known New York Times reporter and author as someone who was “tone deaf and loved her surety.” When I first read this I thought he meant that she lacked, as it were, a sense of intellectual aesthetics.

In fact what he meant was something different, and far more devastating: “There is no room here for surprise, or poetry, or the challenge of a universe which is not the one you are most comfortable residing in.”

At first blush this might seem a long way from the brutal pain experienced by unborn children during an abortion, but bear with me. If you’ve read the stories beginning on pages eight and page 14, you are fully cognizant that pro-abortionists have commandeered the pages of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” (JAMA) to launch an offensive, not just against the best science as it relates to fetal pain, but against common sense and common decency as well.

The five authors would have you believe that unborn children cannot experience pain until after the 29th week. To the commonsensical response that premature babies delivered at a much younger age give every physiological indication that THEY experience pain, the naysayers say these children don’t experience pain either! (Occasionally, some grudgingly concede they might, but then turn around to suggest that, aha, this proves that birth and subsequent life have a huge developmental impact. You can’t win for losing with these people.)

When I first read this nonsense in JAMA, I immediately thought of a piece that had run in the August 14 New York Times Magazine titled “Second Womb,” Paul Raeburn’s extraordinary essay traced the pioneering work of Dr. Heidelise Als.

Dr. Als is convinced that, for the best of reasons and with unimpeachable motivations, Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) unfortunately rarely treat preemies in a way that maximizes their chances of developing to their greatest potential. These babies are painfully poked, prodded, and continually awakened, none of which (while perfectly within the usual guidelines) helps the kids’ intellectual and emotional development.

She told Raeburn these children’s brains are “still under construction.” That, I suspect, also refers to a host of other items, including forming emotional attachments.

My point here is, I wonder if Dr. Als might not guffaw at the idea that preemies don’t feel pain. I cite as one example this from Raeburn’s article:

What she saw was dismaying. In the womb, babies are vibrant, active and in constant physical and hormonal contact with their mothers. In the N.I.C.U., they’re limp little bundles, lying flopped on their backs, their arms extended and eyes closed. Their noses, hands, chests or feet are often pinned with gauze and adhesive tape. And they are repeatedly stuck with needles, intravenous tubes and catheters. ‘’They are sustaining pain at a level that is completely unexpected,’ Als says. ‘’It’s overwhelming to the brain.’”

I suspect most physicians who deal with preemies every day were aghast when they read the JAMA article. Dr. Steve Calvin had this to say in an op-ed he wrote for the never-enough-abortions-for-us Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It is lengthy but provides both an important historical and day-to-day perspective.

“Twenty-five years of delivering babies and a specialization in high-risk obstetrics provide me some experience to refute the claim that fetuses feel no pain until 30 weeks. Many of the tiny babies that I deliver, some as small as 1 pound at 23 weeks, have required surgery during their difficult neonatal battle for life. All of them receive anesthesia.

“Before the 1970s, many newborns, both term and preterm, were operated on without anesthesia in the mistaken belief that they could not feel pain. They certainly couldn’t tell anyone about their discomfort. With more sophisticated monitoring it became clear that blood pressure and pulse rose dramatically during the trauma of surgery. Subsequently, a subspecialty of pediatric anesthesia developed.

“Those who deny fetal pain claim that hormonal and withdrawal responses to invasive procedures are mere reflexes and are no evidence of pain. Recently, I performed an amniocentesis on a patient at 21 weeks gestation because of a possible infection. On ultrasound, the fetus pulled away from the needle when it grazed her arm. It is clear to me that this fetus felt discomfort, and that she would feel horrible pain if she were dismembered in the exercise of an unjust constitutional right.”

Honestly, I am not exaggerating when I say that I believe the authors of the JAMA article and their pro-abortion fellow travelers would not be persuaded that babies suffer unless these little ones got up out of the womb or bassinet, grabbed the skeptics by the shoulders, and screamed, “It hurts!”

Their unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious extends beyond patrolling the borders of pro-abortion orthodoxy to ensure that not even a whiff of compassion breaks into the compound. This rigidity is a profound failure of moral imagination, made worse by an all-encompassing inability to empathize with defenseless children under lethal assault.

If you read the JAMA article, for example, there is example after example of throwaway lines that strongly suggest that they have thrown away their own humanity, or at least put it in a holding tank. It’s as if they are saying, well, sure, maybe, somehow, somewhere, someway, there might be a chance that the kid is hurting, but we don’t know for sure now.

Think about that. Think about a child literally being pulled apart, her arms and legs ripped from her torso, her head crushed with the equivalent of a safe dropping on your head.

Dr Kanwaljeet Anand is (as one physician I talked to described him) the “go-to” guy on fetal and neonatal pain. Even one of his fiercest critics conceded that Dr. Anand “made a series of seminal discoveries during the late 1980s that led to a dramatic change in the treatment of neonates undergoing surgical and other types of care.”

We should listen, shouldn’t we, when we read his testimony at one of the trials in which abortionists were contesting the federal ban on partial-birth abortions, where he said: “I can state my opinion to a degree of medical certainty that all fetuses beyond 20 weeks of gestational age will experience severe pain by the partial-birth abortion procedure.”

Dr. Anand is unequivocal. But what if there was ANY chance this baby was in agony, enduring a kind of suffering beyond anything you or I can even imagine. What ought a morally sentient human being do?

This is one debate that can only surge forward, never recede. Fetal pain– the basic, impossible-to-ignore truth that babies past the 20-week mark will suffer when they are torn apart–is like Archimedes’ lever.

It has the potential to move the world.

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