06/25/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
One of the big pushes within the anti-choice, pro-Christian patriarchal groups trying to decide what women do with their own bodies has been the recent push to consider the pain a fetus feels during an abortion despite there being no evidence of this happening. There is still no evidence that a fetus feels any pain up until somewhere between the 22nd and 24th weeks of pregnancy largely due to the nature of fetal development. A fetus’ brain is not attached to the body’s nerves by that point. A recent study done by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Great Britain found that prior to that window, a fetus was “undeveloped and sedated” due to a combination of the lack of brain connectivity and the state that the womb puts a fetus into.
Anti-choice groups, who are also fairly anti-LGBT, often try to point to conception as the beginning of life despite an historical view inside Christianity that life did not begin until the Quickening, which tended to be around the same time that movement was felt. According to the Bible, life begins when blood flows, and this has, historically, been seen at around that point of movement. Usually, these movements are felt at around 19 weeks.
The Royal College discovered in their study that the pain centers of the brain do not develop until Week 24 in a pregnancy, and that conscious sensation of pain does not begin until after birth due to the way in which the womb protects the fetus from feeling much of anything. Also, the Royal College was trying to determine what qualified as a severe enough deformity to warrant an abortion after that 24th week, but were not able to limit it due to the problem of not knowing what the long term effects of any fetal maldevelopment might be.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, stated to the BBC: “Women and doctors need to be able to make informed decisions based on what science says, not what advocates, whether pro-choice or anti-choice, wish it said.” Anne Quesney, international policy and parliamentary adviser at Marie Stopes, which provides abortion services, stated: “The RCOG’s findings should give comfort and reassurance to any woman who finds herself in the extremely distressing position of having to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy at a later gestation.”
Of course, anti-choice advocates tried to backpedal on the issue of fetal pain. A spokeswoman for the charity Life stated: “We believe that the issue of whether or not an unborn child feels pain is highly peripheral to the ethical debate over abortion. Our intrinsic dignity as human beings does not in any way depend on the extent of our ability to feel pain.” This is despite the fact that many groups which are adamant about ensuring that women have no choice in what is done to or done with their bodies were the first to raise the specter of fetal pain.
Prime Minister Cameron is not likely to change the current law in Britain which was laid down in 1967. The United State laws regarding abortion stem from the case Planned Parenthood which dates to the last quarter of the Twentieth Century. Abortion on demand is limited to no later than the twenty-second week except in the case of fetal maldevelopment and maternal survival.