Six states have banned abortion after 20 weeks on the theory that the fetus can feel pain at that point. The handful of states have pressed ahead even though the theory has been rejected by mainstream medical organizations in the United States and Britain, The New York Times
Nebraska passed the first of the laws last year and has since been followed by Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The laws clash with Supreme Court rulings that say abortion can only be banned if the fetus is viable, a point usually reached at the 24th week of pregnancy, the Times reported.
Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, said, “The purpose of this type of bill is to focus on the humanity of the unborn child. Fetal pain is something that people who are in the middle on the abortion issue can relate to,” the Times reported.
The laws are part of the pledge that anti-abortion activists have been pressing GOP presidential candidates to sign. Five already have and Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have been criticized for refusing to take part in the pledge, the Times reported.
Only about 18,000 of the 1.21 million abortions each year take place later than 20 weeks after conception, and many are medical emergencies. “The suggestion that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain is inconsistent with the biological evidence,” Dr. David Grimes, a prominent researcher and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine told the Times.
“To suggest that pain can be perceived without a cerebral cortex is also inconsistent with the definition of pain.”
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