The past few months have seen an increase in state bans on late-term abortion, at 20 weeks or later. No one claims that such bills will have a huge impact, since the majority of abortions are in the first trimester (up to 12 weeks). So why this emphasis on the later stages?
For one thing, this is an incremental pro-life strategy. Just like 48-hour waiting periods and bills requiring an ultrasound before abortion, such measures may cause women to think twice and carefully consider their options before making a decision they may later regret. For another thing, it is increasingly clear that 20 week-old fetuses can feel pain. Here’s some of the evidence:
- Pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body at 20 weeks of development.
- Nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and sub-cortical plate by no later than 20 weeks.
- The connection between the spinal cord and the thalamus starts to develop from 14 weeks onwards and is finished at 20 weeks.
- From 16 weeks’ gestation pain transmission from a peripheral receptor to the cortex is possible and completely developed at 26 weeks’ gestation.
It seems amazing that many oppose such measures because “the evidence isn’t all in,” or because “we need more discussion.” In fact, neuroscience and developmental biology are very clear on these scientific facts. It seems to me that being pro-choice at this stage of development is to be pro-torture.