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News of the Day ... In Perspective


Article on fetal pain provokes controversy

A literature review published in the Aug 24/31 issue of JAMA concludes fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester. Thus, discussions about possible fetal pain in abortions before the end of the second trimester “should be noncompulsory” (Lee SJ et al. JAMA 2005;294:947-954).

The article also concludes that fetal anesthesia or analgesia should not be recommended or routinely offered for abortion because “current experimental techniques provide unknown fetal benefit and may increase risks for the woman.”

The context of the article was proposed federal legislation requiring that women seeking abortion after 20 weeks be informed that the fetus feels pain and be offered fetal anesthesia.

Fetal awareness of pain, the authors stated, requires functional thalamocortical connections. Neither withdrawal reflexes nor hormonal stress responses prove the existence of pain.

Critics complain that JAMA does not disclose potential conflicts of interest. One author is an abortion clinic director, and the lead author is a medical student who once worked for an abortion rights advocacy organization, NARAL ProChoice America (Ariz Daily Star 8/24/05).

The study site, the Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy (CRHRP) at the University of California at San Francisco, has done more than any other medical institution to integrate abortion into mainstream medical care, according to abortion activist Carol Joffe.

Experts in fetal pain dispute the study’s findings. Neurologist Paul Ranalli says that the 20-30 week child in the womb may feel even more pain than an adult. Ranalli states that “pain impulse connections in the spinal cord link up and reach the thalamus … at 7 to 20 weeks (LifeNews.com 8/24/05).

Additional information on informed consent and abortion:

News of the Day 3/15/05

News of the Day Archive