Neonatologist tells Congress “the fetus and neonate born prior to term may have an even heightened sensation of pain compared to an infant more advanced in gestation” Part Three of Four

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. Anthony Levatino’s testimony to the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee describing a dismemberment abortion is extremely difficult but essential to read. No less so are the remarks of Dr. Colleen Malloy–troubling but critical.


An Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine,  Dr. Malloy testified about her experience caring for premature infants  and about the evidence that not only do premature babies feel pain but unborn babies as well.

She begins with a litany of recent studies that demonstrate that thanks to advancements in neonatology and perinatal medicine, more and more premature babies are surviving and thriving. Dr. Malloy explained that 6% to 10% of premature newborns born at 22 weeks LMP (or 20 weeks post-fertilization) do survive longterm, courtesy of modern neo-natal care. Just two weeks later, well over half of the babies survive long term.

And then a pivotal early paragraph:

“As we provide care for all these survivors, we are able to  witness their experiences with pain.  In fact, standard of care for neonatal intensive care units requires  attention to and treatment of neonatal pain. 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.  Thus, the difference between  fetal and neonatal pain is simply the locale in which the pain occurs.  The receiver’s experience of the pain is the same.  I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to horrific procedures such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection.”

Much of the remainder of her thoughtful testimony documents the how and the why that allow modern neonatology to arrive at that conclusion. She also mentions something we have written about in this space and NRL News many times that is routinely omitted in the popular press:

“Moreover, the fetus and neonate born prior to term may have an even heightened sensation of pain compared to an infant more advanced in gestation.  There is ample evidence to show that while  the pain system develops in the first half of pregnancy, the pain modulating pathways do not develop until the second half.”

Near the very end, Dr. Malloy adds this chilling reminder:

“I firmly believe, as the evidence shows, that the fetal pain experience is no less than the neonatal or adult pain experience. It may even be greater than that which you or I would experience from dismemberment or other physical injury.”

I must confess that in all the dozens and dozens of articles I have written about the capacity of unborn children to experience pain, while I’ve never had trouble associating that with premature babies, I’ve never thought about the unimaginable pain that is dismemberment in the context of what an adult—you or me—would go through!

You can watch the video of Dr. Malloy’s oral testimony at Please pass this story and this link along using your social networks.

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