The Next Legislative Battle: Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
28 January 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 4
Reproduced with Permission

The next titanic struggle for Americans who want to protect unborn children will most likely be U.S. Supreme Court nominations. The Supreme Court, not elected representatives, currently makes law on questions of this kind, and pro-lifers know it is crucial to get jurists who believe in the Constitution onto the court in order to right this inverted system. The pro-abortion lobbies know how important it is to keep such jurists off. In the meantime, the next piecemeal political step toward educating the public about the realities of abortion was reintroduced in Congress this week: the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act.

Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.), fresh from removal as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee by a vindictive House Republican leadership (supposedly for wanting to spend too much money on veterans), delivered another powerfully pro-life speech in reintroducing the legislation (numbered HR 356 in the House). Speaking on the House floor the day after the annual March for Life, Smith said, "Yesterday, 100,000 human rights advocates endured the numbing cold and snow in a great witness for life here in our Nation's Capital. Their presence on behalf of those who have no voice of their own was truly inspiring. . . . The pro-life movement is the greatest human rights movement on Earth. It is a struggle based on unconditional love, even for the pro-abortionists, unconditional empathy for the victims, both the child and his or her mother, and unconditional courage. We are a movement with deep hope and expectation, that with God's all-powerful grace, and through that all-powerful grace, the culture of death will soon be vanquished by the culture of life, where all human life is cherished and respected. We pray for the day when branding an unborn child as unwanted will no longer mean a death sentence in America. Mr. Speaker, I have always found the term Ôunwanted child' dehumanizing, for it relegates a child to the status of a commodity, an object, a thing, something that can be chosen or unchosen at will, not unlike any other consumer product."

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act will not restrict access to abortion. Instead, it will require abortion clinics to educate women about the possible effect of abortion on their unborn children. Women will learn that there is considerable scientific evidence that unborn children 20 weeks or older feel pain during abortions. "Now we learn, Mr. Speaker," said Smith, "from science and medicine that due to nerve cell development, unborn children from at least 20 weeks onward, and most likely even earlier, feel excruciating pain, two to four times more pain than you or I would feel from the same assault."

Women at 20 or more weeks of pregnancy would be told about the pain their children will feel. The bill would give the aborting woman the choice of having direct anesthesia given to her unborn child before he or she is killed. "Indirect administration does not cross the placenta to numb the pain that the child feels as they are being slowly dismembered by these later-term abortion methods," Smith noted. "One of those methods, the D and E, takes about 30 minutes as the arms and the legs and the body and the torso are all hacked off. And the baby feels pain during this hideous procedure."

Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) reintroduced the bill in the Senate, where it is designated S 51. Brownback succeeded in getting almost one-third of the 100-member Senate to back the bill from the start. It has 32 co-sponsors including Brownback himself. Unfortunately, unlike in the House, no Democrats co-sponsored the Senate bill, not even Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), who is often promoted as a moderate pro-lifer. "Unborn children can experience pain even more so than adults as the baby has more pain receptors per square inch than at any other time in its life," said Brownback. "Any woman who has been blessed with a child in the second trimester can attest to the reaction to touch and discomfort felt by the baby. . . . After being presented with the medical and scientific information on the development of the unborn child 20 weeks after fertilization, the woman is more aware of the pain experienced by the child during an abortion procedure, and can at the very least make an informed decision." We can pray that some of these women will change their minds about having an abortion.

The pro-abortion movement and the politicians in its pocket are so devoutly dedicated to the culture of death that they will likely oppose this purely informational bill, just as they vociferously defend the appalling practice of partial-birth infanticide. The issue is not yet ripe for debate in Congress, but should be soon.. When the time comes, be ready to express, to your elected representatives, your opinion about informing women of the pain late-term abortions cause. In the meantime, you may want to read for yourself what abortionists have to say about children's pain during abortion in a collection of court testimony on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' website,