Ketanji Brown Jackson is asked “can unborn babies feel pain?” “I don’t know.” The answer is “Sure they can.”

By Dave Andrusko

Yesterday we discussed how Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson handled the abortion issue during her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Not surprisingly, a nominee of pro-abortion President Joe Biden would say nothing that would assuage pro-life concerns that Judge Brown Jackson will be a reliable third vote to uphold Roe v. Wade.

One of more than a few non-responses was to this question by pro-life Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC):

“Can an unborn child feel pain at 20 weeks in the birthing process?”

“Senator, I don’t know,” she replied.

Perhaps Judge Jackson really doesn’t know. But she should.

If she were to go to the established “authorities”—for example, the pro-abortion American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which relied on a 2010 report from  Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; and an article produced by pro-abortion activists  that appeared in 2005 in the Journal of the American Medical Association—they would tell her no.

In addition to sharing the same biased conclusion, these studies share another thing in common: they are hopelessly outdated.

But time–and science–has not stood still.

On December 1, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which addressed Mississippi’s limit on abortion after 15 weeks.

As Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie pointed out

During oral arguments, Justice Sotomayor displayed abysmal ignorance of the most basic scientific and medical facts about developing human life.

The exchange came right after Mississippi’s solicitor general Scott Stewart argued it was no longer appropriate to use fetal viability (the gestational age at which a prematurely-born infant can survive in an intensive care unit) as the point after which states can protect an unborn child from elective abortion. 

He said this was due—in part—to 30 years of medical advances. In a piqued, incredulous tone, Sotomayor demanded to know just “What are the advancements in medicine?” As Stewart began to list them, mentioning new knowledge of fetal pain, the Justice abruptly cut him off.

Our brief and others document the medical and scientific advances Mr. Stewart was referring to, in language easily accessible to lay people and rigorously sourced in the latest scientific journals and currently accepted medical practices. It’s there for anyone with eyes—or the will—to see.

Justice Sotomayor vigorously rejected Stewart’s reference to advances in our understanding of fetal pain. She claimed that only an eccentric “small fringe” believes fetal pain exists “before 24, 25 weeks.” 

She could not have been more wrong. A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that a fully developed cortex is not necessary for the transmission of pain sensations, which may be present as early as 12 weeks.

And there is a fundamental irony. One of the reasons Dr. Christie could write that was the co-author of that 2010 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists report, Dr. Stuart Derbyshire, has completely reversed his position!

In 2020, he published a peer-reviewed paper in BMJ’s Journal of Medical Ethics and concluded that “a balanced reading of that evidence, points toward an immediate and unreflective pain experience mediated by the developing function of the nervous system from as early as 12 weeks.”

A fleeting but telling  moment at Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearings exposes yet again the truth about the humanity of the unborn child and one more reason that killing unborn babies is hideous.