FACTOID # 10: The total number of state executions in 2005 was 60: 19 in Texas and 41 elsewhere. The racial split was 19 Black and 41 White.
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Encyclopedia > Fetal pain

The issue of when a fetus can feel pain is a highly divisive and keenly debated one when considering the experience of a fetus during abortion. While scientists have acknowledged that a fetus can indeed feel physical pain[1], professional opinion is still divided as to when the fetus has the necessary sensory perception to experience pain. Several academics, usually those supporting abortion, contend that only once connections to the cerebral cortex are made can the fetus experience pain; this usually occurs during the third trimester of the pregnancy, when only 1% of abortions are carried out. Other scientists, who mainly hold pro-life convictions, argue that a fetus can feel pain as early as 7 weeks, during the first trimester. The personal bias of many researchers is believed to influence their analysis of any experiments they undertake into the phenomenon. The topic has also been hotly debated by many politicians of both persuasions. Fetus at eight weeks Foetus redirects here. ... Location of the Cerebral cortex Slice of the Cerebral cortex, ca. ...

Pain in an adult, child, newborn or late-term fetus originates as an electrical impulse in a body's pain receptors. This signal is sent via nerve pathways to the spinal column, and then to the thalamus - a part of the brain that relays signals from the peripheral nervous system to the cerebral cortex, where it is sensed as pain. The spinal cord is a part of the vertebrate nervous system that is enclosed in and protected by the vertebral column (it passes through the spinal canal). ... The thalamus (from Greek thálamos = bedroom, chamber) is a part of the brain. ... The peripheral nervous system or PNS, is part of the nervous system,and I have no clue what it does. ... Location of the Cerebral cortex Slice of the Cerebral cortex, ca. ...

In a fetus, pain receptors develop around 7 weeks after conception; the spino-thalamic system at about 13 weeks. However, the connections to the cortex are established only after about 26 weeks into pregnancy. Most pro-life advocates believe that pain can be felt by the fetus when these systems are only partly formed. Most pro-choice advocates believe that only once all the connections between the receptors and brain can pain be felt - i.e. sometime after about 26 weeks into pregnancy.

In 1997, Dr. Robert White, director of the Division of Neurosurgery and Brain Research Laboratory at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, gave testimony before the House Constitution Subcommittee of the Congress of the United States. He stated that, at 20 weeks' gestation, the fetus "is fully capable of experiencing pain...Without question, all of this is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure."[1] Congress in Joint Session. ...

His assertions were supported by Dr. Paul Ranalli, a neurologist at the University of Toronto, who has cited several observations to support the belief that a fetus can experience pain. These include observing a fetus "withdraw from painful stimulation", and the fact that stress hormones detected in adults observing pain has also been found in the blood samples of aborted fetuses. Neurology is the branch of medicine that deals with the nervous system and disorders affecting it. ... Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto (U of T), in Toronto, Ontario, is the largest university in Canada. ...

In 2001, a working group appointed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the United Kingdom contradicted these findings, stating that "little sensory input" reaches the brain of the developing fetus before 26 weeks. "Therefore reactions to noxious stimuli cannot be interpreted as feeling or perceiving pain."[1]

In 2005, a meta-analysis of existing experiments undertaken by the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the lack of functioning neurological pathways to a fetus' cererbral cortex before 26 weeks meant that it could not experience pain before then. The meta-study was criticised by pro-life groups who were suspicious of the prior involvement of several authors of the report. One directs an abortion clinic at San Francisco Hospital, while the lead author undertook legal work with NARAL, an pro-choice group for six months. A meta-analysis is a statistical practice of combining the results of a number of studies. ... JAMA is the acronym for the Journal of the American Medical Association, a leading medical journal. ... NARAL Pro-Choice America (pronounced Nay-ral) is a United States group that favors the right to legal abortions and engages in political action to oppose restrictions on what it portrays as womens right to abort. ...

Given the lack of irrefutable evidence, women will have to rely on their own convictions and conscience when choosing whether or not to abort their pregnancy.


  1. ^ a b  Can a fetus feel pain?. URL accessed on December 14, 2005.

December 14 is the 348th day of the year (349th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 2005 (MMV) is a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

External links

  • Anti-abortion site presenting case for fetal pain from second month of pregnancy: [2].
  • A review of clinical evidence concerning fetal pain, JAMA. 2005;294:947-954. [3]



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