Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) have introduced legislation in Congress that would require an abortionist to provide documentation on the capacity of an unborn child to feel pain to any woman seeking an abortion past the 20th week. After receiving this information, the woman must either accept or refuse the administration of pain-reducing drugs directly to the unborn child. The bill also contains congressional "findings" regarding the scientific evidence that unborn children experience great pain during abortions at 20 weeks (and perhaps earlier), and cites a number of existing federal laws that seek to diminish the suffering even of animals, such as restrictions on how livestock are slaughtered.
Nothing in the bill would deny that unborn children may experience pain prior to 20 weeks after fertilization, but a notable segment of the medical and scientific community agrees on the 20-week benchmark for pain.
Interestingly, the leading pro-abortion group "NARAL Pro-Choice America" said the following, through their President Nancy Keenan: "Pro-choice Americans have always believed that women deserve access to all the information relevant to their reproductive health decisions. For some women, that includes information related to fetal anesthesia options. NARAL Pro-Choice America does not intend to oppose this legislation."
Good thinking. After all, what can appear more heartless than opposing legislation to keep babies from feeling pain? And what can be more damaging to the cause of abortion than to create a big fight over the pain babies feel during abortion? It's one of those lose-lose propositions for the abortion camp. No matter what you say about it, just raising the issue gives abortion a bad name.
Maybe that's why abortionists themselves often don't allow themselves to think about it. Consider the following exchange that took place in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, between Judge Richard Casey and abortionist Timothy Johnson. (Johnson was testifying in the case National Abortion Federation, et. al. v. Ashcroft, which dealt with the ban on partial-birth abortion. The date was March 31, 2004.):
THE COURT: If you are all finished let me just ask you a couple questions, Dr. Johnson. I heard you talk a lot today about dismemberment D&E procedure, second trimester; does the fetus feel pain?
THE WITNESS: I guess I --
THE COURT: There are studies, I'm told, that says they do. Is that correct?...
THE WITNESS: I'm aware of fetal behavioral studies that have looked at fetal responses to noxious stimuli.
THE COURT: Does it ever cross your mind when you are doing a dismemberment?
THE WITNESS: I guess whenever I --
THE COURT: Simple question, Doctor. Does it cross your mind?
THE WITNESS: Does the fetus having pain cross your mind?
THE COURT: Yes.
THE WITNESS: No.
THE COURT: Never crossed your mind.
THE WITNESS: No.
It's time for us to make this issue cross the mind of every American. Urge your Representatives and Senators to support the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (H.R. 256, S. 51).
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This column an be found online at www.priestsforlife.org/columns/columns2006/06-09-11painawareness.htm