Science Supports Pain-Capability of Unborn by 20 Weeks

Lozier Institute 3 February 2015
The subject of fetal pain is and has been both a controversial and compelling aspect of the debate surrounding abortion. Whether a child in the womb can feel pain and at what stage raises many ethical issues and, for many, introduces another source of uncertainty into personal views on the matter of abortion. With advances in modern science and ongoing research, it is becoming more apparent that the unborn child can feel pain by 20 weeks, i.e., five months, or even earlier in the pregnancy.

This January, an extensively researched document on the science of fetal pain was published by the Family Research Council (FRC). The report cites more than 30 scientific studies, testimonies, medical evidence, and real-life experiences in its exposition of the science of fetal pain as the weeks advance post-fertilization.

Below is just a sample of the clear evidence provided by these sources:

  • On neurological development: “Pain receptors appear around the mouth 4 to 5 weeks post-fertilization, followed by the development of nerve fibers, which carry stimuli to the brain. Around 6 six weeks post-fertilization, the unborn child first responds to touch. By 18 weeks post-fertilization, pain receptors have appeared throughout the body.” (2003 medical textbook on maternal, fetal, and neonatal physiology)
  • On early fetal response to painful stimuli: “The earliest reactions to painful stimuli motor reflexes can be detected at 7.5 weeks of gestations [5.5 weeks post-fertilization].” (2012 medical article)
  • On fetal stress responses: “Multiple studies show that ‘the human fetus from 18-20 weeks elaborates pituitary-adrenal, sympatho-adrenal, and circulatory stress responses to physical insults.’” (2013 expert testimony before Congress of Dr. Maureen Condic, Director of Human Embryology instruction for the School of Medicine at the University of Utah)
  • On fetal experience of pain being more intense than in adults: “Mechanisms that inhibit or moderate the experience of pain do not begin to develop until 32 to 34 weeks post-fertilization. Any pain the unborn child experiences before these pain inhibitors are in place is likely more intense than the pain an older infant or adult experiences when subjected to similar types of injury.” (2004 expert testimony before Congress of Dr. Kanwaljeet “Sunny” Anand)
    http://www.lozierinstitute.org/science-supports-pain-capability-of-unborn-by-20-weeks/