Texas Right to Life’s “Flagship” bill: the Preborn Pain Bill

By Dave Andrusko

Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D.

Two weeks ago we reported the good news from Texas Right to Life that its “flagship” bill for the next session is its Preborn Pain Bill. Texas RTL explained that it was building consensus for this measure and to spread awareness about the fact that children who are capable of feeling pain are subjected to an excruciating premature death by abortion.

As Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas RTL wrote, “The general medical consensus is that the developing human preborn child is capable of experiencing torturous pain at 20 weeks post-fertilization.  These scientific findings are based on anatomical, behavioral, and physiological neuro-stimuli.  The science of preborn pain sets the standard of care for preborn children who undergo surgery in utero.” If Texas prevails, there will be eight states with comparable bills.

While Texas is a strongly pro-life state, it is cursed with a press extremely sympathetic to the pro-abortion viewpoint. Late last week when the Texas Tribune wrote about the bill, it cited a study published in 2005 by the Texas Medical Association which found “evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”

Mary Spaulding Balch, JD, director of NRLC’s Department of State Legislation, strongly disagrees, highlighting how far we’ve come in our knowledge.

“Today’s scientific understanding of the unborn child is far beyond what it was in 1973 when the United States Supreme Court handed down its infamous Roe v. Wade abortion decision,” she explained. “Forty years ago, the unborn child virtually did not exist in medicine.”

Balch noted that because of the ever-increasing resort to fetal surgery, physicians were able to observe unborn children experiencing pain during the surgery. This led them to study the pain of the unborn child. Subsequently they began to recommend that anesthesia be administrated when the unborn child has achieved 20 weeks of development, which is at about the start of the sixth month.

“Because of this new interest, there is now substantial medical evidence which demonstrates that pain receptors (nociceptors) are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body and that nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks,” she told NRL News Today.

“We also know that by eight weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch,” Balch added. “And that after twenty weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that, if applied to an adult human, would be recognized as painful. For example, you can see the child recoil from the painful stimuli. And we know that fetal anesthesia is administered when surgery is performed.”

When asked about the comments of Blake Rocap, the legislative director for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, that “This legislation appeals and panders to a very narrow slice of the most socially conservative primary voters in the state,” Balch responded that the truth is just the opposite.

“You have to be hard-core pro-abortion to ignore the obvious: that the developing unborn child experiences excruciating pain when aborted at no later than 20 weeks after fertilization (from about the beginning of the sixth month, in layman’s terminology),” she said. “The American people are with us on the need to protect unborn babies capable of experiencing pain.”

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