Posted: 05/20/15 16:38
by Dave Mindeman
OK, I'm going to be talking some science here - so I'm sure a lot of GOP supporters will be leaving and especially MCCL members, but here goes anyway.
Let's discuss this 20 week abortion ban that has become the new mandatory issue for Republicans. I'm going to refer to an article on the LifeNews site that gives us all the new "evidence" about scientific fetal research.
The article has a very provacitive title:
Medical Expert Confirms Unborn Children Feel Excruciating Pain During Abortions
The medical expert involved here is David A. Prentice, Ph.D., Vice President and Research Director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Notice that there is not an MD in the title...not that I have anything against Ph.D's, but when you talk medical, I automatically think doctor.
And if you look up the Charlotte Lozier Institute you will get this explanation:
The Charlotte Lozier Institute is the 501(c)(3) research and education institute of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion.
Ok - so we know where the credentials are coming from, so let's talk about the article. Mr. Prentice gives us an explanation about the 20 week ban...
The science is pretty conclusive at this point. And there are always going to be people, especially those in favor of abortion, who will say, "Oh that really doesn't happen, and they'll throw up a smokescreen. And what they usually do is they refer to an old study back in 2005 that was published actually by people who had associations with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. But the real science - and there's some new things in fact, that have come out in the last few months - but the science pretty conclusively demonstrates: Young babies still in the womb at 20 weeks after conception, and probably even earlier, do indeed feel pain, and in fact, may feel more intense pain than a newborn or an adult.
Wow. Conclusive is a pretty strong word - especially when the experts tend to go pretty much the opposite way on this.
But there is another quote which I find even more suspect....
Question: So one of the arguments that's made is that at twenty weeks the baby doesn't have a mature cerebral cortex. What do you say to that argument?
Prentice: Well, if your listeners aren't up to speed on brain anatomy, the cortex is sort of the outermost part that is, in terms of your conscious thoughts and so on, it's the last part of the brain to develop.
There is indication that some of that neuronal material in your brain is already present, starting to be formed certainly by twenty weeks after conception, but it also turns out that that's not the most important part of your brain for pain perception.
There's another deeper layer that forms early in your brain called the thalamus, deep inside your brain. It forms even earlier in development - probably about 8 to 12 weeks is when you start to see it forming, and those nerve tracks already connect to the thalamus by the time you are 20 weeks after conception, or after fertilization.
In fact, there are individuals who are born without the cerebral cortex, and they feel pain. We know that for a fact.
So, you don't need that cortical layer to actually feel pain. What you need are these deeper parts of the brain and simply the neural tracks for sensation. And those are definitely formed, intact, and responding by twenty weeks after conception.
There is a difference in having pain receptors which can be stimulated and the actual perception of pain - which requires brain development.
Although the thalamus starts to develop in the 8 to 12 week period, the inner workings of the thalamus are not complete until 24 to 26 weeks of gestation. In addition, most scientists believe that the perception of pain requires consciousness, sentience, and external stimuli. Outside of a rudimentary thalamus, the fetus has none of those criteria.
Anti-choice activists have used this "science" of fetal pain to promote a sympathetic ear among legislators - many of which have an anti-choice slant anyway.
A fetus can "react" to pain stimuli in much the same way as a sleeping person might have a reflexive action to being touched. It is not perceived by a brain that can interpret it and to actually attribute a sentient action is not a rational extrapolation.
Humans are conditioned to think of fetal protection and protecting a person. It is a necessary condition and a natural reaction for people who have kids or want kids.
And I am not going to question anyone's beliefs about abortion. That is a personal choice and belief. But this "pain" argument is not scientific and it is not something upon which to base a legislative policy decision.
When it comes to choice decisions in a pregnancy, it is easy to use human emotion to push an agenda. And I would hope that human emotion is never removed from the choice process. But to make a blanket legislative policy on disputed and questionable science - and promoting it as fact - is just not rational and must be rejected.
20 weeks is a number...and only that.