The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a statement about fetal pain given the misleading testimony during the debate over HR 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act. This legislation was recently passed by the House of Representatives and if it becomes law will ban all abortions after 20 weeks. There is a life of the mother clause and rape/incest exemption, but only if the rape/incest is reported to the police before the procedure.
We’ll have to discuss the atrocity of requiring a police report to “legitimize” rape/incest on another day. Today I want to focus on the erroneous and thoroughly unscientific belief that a 20 week fetus feels pain.
This is the statement from ACOG on the scientific facts concerning fetal pain:
A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.
Although ultrasound monitoring can show intrauterine fetal movement, no studies since 2005
demonstrate fetal recognition of pain.
Sound health policy is best based on scientific fact and evidence-based medicine. The best health care
is provided free of governmental interference in the patient-physician relationship. Personal decision-making by women and their doctors should not be replaced by political ideology.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), representing more than 58,000
ob-gyns and partners in women’s health, supports robust, factual debate on issues of importance to the
American people. We urge you to call on us to provide expert factual explanation of issues related to
It is important to note that many other medical societies also oppose HR 1797, including:
American College of Nurse-Midwives
American Medical Women’s Association
American Nurses Association
American Public Health Association
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health
National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association
Physicians for Reproductive Health
Obstetrician-gynecologists use last menstrual period (LMP) to date pregnancies. This bill
seeks to take the determination of gestational age away from medical doctors who are trained
to make this determination.
Science tells us that the thalamocortical fibers (the wiring that transmits pain signal to and from the brain) don’t start penetrating the cortical plate until 22 weeks at the very earliest (most embryologists quote 24 weeks), never mind that the cortical changes needed to process nocioception (a sensation) as pain are not present at 22 weeks. Quite simply a stimulus cannot be painful until it is processed by the brain as pain.
How these blatantly unscientific facts are allowed to permeate our government is frightening. They are not just happening at a federal level as many states are also using this tactic. If enough of these laws get passed people who otherwise don’t think too much about abortion or embryology might start believing it to be true. And if fetal pain acts become laws in multiple states, how could they not?
What if one day a senator wanted to pass a law saying the world is flat? Never mind that we have scientists and astronauts who can tell us otherwise with scientific facts (a.k.a. proof). What if his party held the majority and voted in his favor. And since the world will be designated as flat, all sailing past the visible horizon will be banned because the ship could fall off into the great beyond. Would we rise up and say, “You’ve got to be kidding me?!”
These fetal pain acts and laws are no different from saying the world is flat.
Some people very much want fetal pain to be true, but that doesn’t make it so. Science says otherwise. To me this is much more than a fight about reproductive rights, it’s a fight about legislators pushing through personal agendas that are destructive to the well-being of society.
When we abandon facts, we have nothing.