Scientists have known that preborn babies feel pain. Common sense also tells us this, as babies are fully formed with all organs present even at very early stages of fetal development. If a newborn baby is born clearly feeling sensation, why would we think a preborn child would not sense her environment and feel pain when prodded?
The scientific evidence that babies undeniably feel the excruciating pain of abortion by 20 weeks’ gestation catalyzed legislation protecting pain-capable preborn children from abortion. In Texas, legislators passed such provisions into law as part of House Bill 2, the Pro-Life Omnibus Bill of 2013.
Studies since 2013 have leant further support to laws banning abortion on pain-capable preborn babies. For example, a 2015 study found that newborn babies feel pain more intensely than adults. Last month, a groundbreaking study published in the journal Cell found that babies in utero might feel pain much earlier than previously thought. Study authors found that “the adult-like pattern of skin innervation is established before the end of the first trimester, showing important intra- and inter-individual variations in nerve branches.” This formation indicates the possibility of sensory abilities as early as the first trimester. While examining very young babies in the first trimester, researchers captured “high-resolution images of whole human embryos and fetal organs,” showing the sophisticated development and differentiation even at such an early gestational age. You can view the study here.
The study paves the way for further research in embryology to better understand the development of sense perception in the womb.
Of course, whether or not a child feels the pain of being violently killed is not the standard by which to judge if abortion is right or wrong. For many people, the realization that every preborn child, at any stage of development, has a unique sequence of DNA and is an unrepeatable human being causes them to reject abortion. The ongoing research about how preborn babies feel pain in the womb is not a surefire way to convince staunch abortion activists to defend the preborn. However, the fact that preborn babies feel pain, possibly at a very early stage of development, is yet another way to change the conversation about abortion.
The more people understand that the preborn baby is just like us, the harder the abortion argument is to make. If a preborn child feels the pain of being poked and prodded the same way we would, how could we end the child’s Life in a violent way we wouldn’t allow our dog to be killed? If passing through the birth canal doesn’t magically transform a clump of cells into a human baby, why wouldn’t we protect babies in the womb the way we protect the most vulnerable members of our society?
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