Now, the research may or may not prove to be true but the JAMA did not disclose this information when the study was published in their pages. The problem of course is that while this study may yet be discredited, the media will not give that story the light that it deserves. It may get a mention buried deep in the papers but many more people will here this story than will ever hear of any future retraction. In essence, the damage is done and the pro-abortion propaganda (if this is what it is) is out there. Regardless of how the rest of the story plays out, whether or not these researchers are exposed for peddling false results, the pro-abortion effort has won a victory. The no-pain meme has escaped.
I've just been doing a little reading up on this and it seems that this research comes at a time when,
"advocates are pushing for foetal pain laws aimed at curtailing abortion. Proposed federal legislation would require doctors to provide foetal pain information to women seeking abortions when foetuses are at least 20-weeks-old, and to offer women foetal anesthesia at that stage of the pregnancy. A handful of American states have enacted similar measures."
A foetal pain researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Dr Kanwaljeet Anand,who is of the opinion that foetuses as young as 20 weeks old feel pain, had this to say on the matter-
"This is going to inflame a lot of scientists who are very, very concerned and are far more knowledgeable in this area than the authors appear to be. This is not the last word - definitely not."
In fact, the general consensus is that unborn children can feel pain from 24 weeks on- because it is at this stage that a connection is made between the cortext and the hypothalamus. This new study on the other hand asserts that pain can only be felt from 29 weeks. The idea is that the pain can only truly be experienced in the higher brain or cortex, not in the hypothalamus. There is, of course, dissent from this view. Some doctors believe that as early as 17 weeks the nervous system is developed enough that an unborn child might feel pain. Professor Vivette Glover from Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in London argues that,
""I think that the evidence is that the system is starting to form by 20 weeks, maybe by 17 weeks. Given there is a possibility (that a foetus can feel pain) we should give the foetus the benefit of the doubt."
Dr. Anand, by the way, has given testimony that foetuses can feel severe pain by 20 weeks-
"increased heart rate, blood flow and hormone levels in response to pain...The physiological responses have been very clearly studied. The fetus cannot talk ... so this is the best evidence we can get"...Anand said that studies have shown that fetuses have the "anatomical structure" to feel pain and respond to "tactile and touch stimuli from very, very early in gestation"...Anand said that fetuses at 20 weeks gestation have a "rudimentary consciousness" and studies have shown "intermittent" brain wave activity at that time."
This article also cites the work of Anand, but the author (an assistant professor who was asked to provide testimony on behalf of Planned Parenthood to the Virginia State Senate) moves to dismiss his findings. First, his summary of foetal development-
"Behavioural responses to touch reflect the changing maturity of the fetal nervous system. At 7.5 weeks' gestation, reflex responses to touch begin. At this point touching the peri-oral region results in a bending of the head. The palms of the hands become sensitive to stroking at 10.5 weeks, and the rest of the body and legs become sensitive at approximately 13.5 weeks. Shortly after the development of sensitivity, repeated skin stimulation results in hyperexcitability and a generalised movement of all limbs. These generalised movements give way to more refined and coordinated movements after about 26 weeks' gestation."
From this it's plainly obvious that an unborn child can react to touch from about seven and a half weeks- the body and legs are sensitive to touch from thirteen and a half weeks. What we're being told in essence is that a foetus can feel touch from this age- and yet we're still being asked to believe that pain is something that can only be experienced on a much higher level of consciousness than mere touch. I would have thought that being able to feel something- having your hand stroked for instance- and reacting to it suggested a form of development sufficiently advanced to also experience pain. Is it necessary to attain a high level of consciousness to experience pain? I don't think so- pain seems to me to be one of the most basic signals of life and being able to "experience it fully" doesn't seem to me to require a high level of consciousness. We're not talking about some lofty notion like love here. Are these people also arguing that animals cannot experience pain because they can't "appreciate it fully"?
Amongst his criticisms of Anand is this-
The most that can be said of biological development in the 20-week fetus is that the fetus has an incomplete 'pain alarm'. Although this alarm allows for some defensive reactions it is highly unlikely to allow for an experience of pain; incomplete alarms tend not to ring.
Anand ignores the importance of psychological development for the ultimate conscious experience of pain. When a primary care-giver points to a spot and asks 'does that hurt?', he or she is beginning the process of enabling an internal discrimination and with it experience. It is difficult to imagine the undifferentiated existence prior to any symbolic labelling, but it could be like looking at a vast TV screen with the entire world's information upon it from a distance of one-inch. With no means of making the necessary discriminations all that will be observed is a great buzzing mass of meaningless sound and colour. Before a symbolic system such as language, an individual will not know that something in front of them is large or small, hot or cold, red or green and so on.
In other words, ignore the development in the 20-week old unborn child (because there is further development still to occur) and then accept that a child cannot feel pain because of its "undifferentiated existence prior to labelling". I guess then that when a newly born child cries, it's not because it's cold and hungry- how could it be without "symbolic labelling"? Remember, he's arguing that you can't feel hot or cold without language.
I have a word for this, but instead I'll say, "Balderdash." To argue that you can't have an experience of something without the ability to label it is patently absurd. That an adult might attempt to use such an argument is mind-boggling. The argument is cited however to dismiss the physical signs of pain experiecned by unborn children- it can't be real pain, they argue, because foetuses are not real people. Only a real, fully developed person can experience pain. The notion that must be held is that pain is not a basic message delivered by the nervous system, like touch, but something altogether more nebulous which requires a higher level of consciousness to be "experienced" rather than just "felt".
This is why we can be so positive that the fetus does not feel pain. Not only has the biological development not yet occurred but also the post-birth environment, so necessary to the development of experience, has not yet made itself felt.
Got that? He claims that any unborn cild, regardless of age, cannot feel pain because it has not yet been exposed to life after birth. He does not state at which stage of development pain can be said to be felt- is it at the moment of birth? Plainly no, because he argues that there is no language. So when is it? Three months, six months, a year? Can a child only be said to truly understand pain when it can signal where it is sore? In essence what we're being asked to believe is that something is not real to an individual unless it has at least a basic understanding of language.
If you're in any doubt as to the author's position and rationale behind his absurd arguments consider this-
There is no question that both D&X and D&E are physically brutal procedures. Even as someone fully committed to abortion access 'as late as necessary', the thought of dangling an alive and healthy late-term fetus out of the womb before collapsing its skull, or tearing it apart with forceps and fingers, causes pause. But unwanted pregnancy, including unwanted late pregnancy, is a fact of life. To deny women access to the abortions they need only swaps the brutality of abortion for the brutality of denying women's autonomy and forcing them to become mothers.
Got that too? "Forcing" a woman to become a mother is as brutal as crushing the skull of a late-term child after it has partially been born. This is slightly off the point- the age at which an unborn child can feel pain- but it bears looking at. He's saying that what's essentially the murder of a child is less important than the fact that a woman might find herself a mother. I can see that procedures like this might be necessary of some medical emergency but that's not the argument being put forward here- the argument is that an unborn child is incapable of feeling pain in any way and their lives are therefore forfeit. The same argument, I believe, lies behind this current research- which dismisses the generally held medical opinion that an unborn child can feel pain from between 24-26 weeks.