Perhaps the most disturbing damage that the abortion lobby has done to our society—aside from the systematic killing of tens of millions of innocent human beings—is the corruption of science in the name of ideology. Nowhere is this corruption more obvious than in the misrepresentation of the neuroscience of fetal pain perception.
A new article in the Journal of Medical Ethics titled Reconsidering Fetal Pain (open access) is a welcome correction to the abortion lobby’s systematic misrepresentation. The authors, one of whom is an abortion advocate, reviewed the literature on the perception of fetal pain and came to the conclusion that there is clear scientific evidence to support the view that unborn children feel pain as early as 13 weeks of gestation.
Abortion advocates have long argued that young children in the womb are incapable of feeling pain because of the immaturity of the nervous system. Some have argued that pain perception does not occur until the age of viability outside of the womb, which is between 22 and 24 weeks. However the neuroscience on this issue is very clear. Pain perception is a complex interaction between cortical input and thalamic and lower brain and spinal cord input. These thalamocortical projections mature gradually, beginning in fetal life and continuing into early adult life, and are not fully mature until young adulthood.
Notably, the cortex appears not to be necessary for the perception of pain but rather for its modulation and interpretation. Pain probably enters awareness at the subcortical levels, which are well-developed in early fetal life. The neurosurgical treatment of chronic pain often involves cortical stimulation, which seems to suppress the experience of pain. What this means is that an unborn child with an immature brain probably experiences pain more intensely than an individual with a mature cortex.
Certainly anyone who is had any experience with very young or premature infants can attest that children at this age seem to experience pain quite intensely. I have cared for hundreds of premature infants and it is very clear that these very young children experience pain intensely. An innocuous needlestick in the heel to draw small amount of blood would ordinarily not be particularly painful for an adult. But a tiny infant will scream at such discomfort.
The scientific community has for decades misrepresented the straightforward science of conception and fetal development for ideological reasons. Children in the womb are the obvious victims of this scientific fraud. If the abortion debate were conducted in accordance with honest scientific evidence, public opinion and public policy on abortion would be quite different. This, of course, is the reason for the systematic misrepresentation that plagues our understanding of human development.
See also: The junk science of the abortion lobby. Fetuses not only experience pain but experience it more intensely than do adults
Betraying Dietrich Bonhoeffer by espousing abortion: Bonhoeffer opposed abortion but the president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute argues for it.