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Unborn child pain bill reintroduced in Congress

WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life members of Congress have reintroduced legislation requiring women be informed about the pain their unborn children will experience if they undergo late-term abortions.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., and Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., introduced on consecutive days the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, S. 51 in the Senate and H.R. 356 in the House of Representatives. Brownback offered his bill with 31 cosponsors Jan. 26, one day after Smith presented his measure. The House bill has 85 cosponsors.

The bill has two provisions: 1) An abortion doctor would have to provide a woman at least 20 weeks into pregnancy with scientific evidence about the severe pain her unborn child would experience during the procedure and 2) if the woman still decides to have an abortion, the doctor would be required to offer anesthesia for her unborn baby in order to reduce his pain.

The bill’s sponsors and other pro-life members of Congress said at a Jan. 26 news conference they would like to do more, but they are limited by Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion at all stages.

“This bill doesn’t go near far enough,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, a newly elected Republican from Oklahoma and a physician who has delivered more than 4,000 babies. “This is a step. There’s no question women should know what they’re getting into. … [This] is the least we can do.”

Smith called the measure a “very modest effort.” He said he looks forward to a day when the unborn are protected by the law, but in the meantime, “Shame on us if we do not take immediate measures to relieve the pain” of babies who are aborted.

Abortion clinics are “not only killing mills, but they are torture chambers,” Smith said.

Southern Baptist public policy specialist Barrett Duke said he could not “imagine that any caring, compassionate person could object to this common sense, humane legislation.”

“For 32 years, abortionists have been tearing babies apart in their mothers’ wombs with no regard for the pain of the child,” said Duke, vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This must stop. The very least we can do is make sure that these innocent human beings do not have their last experience on earth an experience more excruciatingly painful than any person living today could tolerate. We don’t have hangnails removed without anesthesia. These unborn babies are of infinitely greater worth, and their pain is more intense, yet their pain is not even considered in the abortion. This legislation will finally correct that terrible omission.”

The pain experienced by unborn children by the mid-point of pregnancy was testified to during federal trials last year in challenges to the ban on partial-birth abortion.

In April testimony in Lincoln, Neb., Kanwaljeet Anand, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said a partial-birth abortion “would be extremely painful” for an unborn baby at 20 weeks gestation, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Unborn children at 20 weeks have developed the sensory nerves, skin receptors and brain stem required to feel pain, he said. Studies have demonstrated unborn babies display pain physiologically, exhibiting an increased heart rate and the secretion of stress hormones, Anand testified. He also said the pain could be as great for an unborn child who is aborted by means of another procedure in which the baby is dismembered.

In a partial-birth abortion, a doctor delivers an intact baby, feet first, until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the infant’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain, killing the child.

Two 2004 public opinion surveys showed Americans strongly support giving information about fetal pain to women considering abortion when their pregnancy is 20 weeks or more. A Zogby poll in April found 77 percent support laws requiring women receive such evidence, and a Wirthlin Worldwide survey in November found 75 percent agree with such laws.