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Politics, Religion, science

Religion Trumps Science in New Law

Nebraska has collectively given in to Faith-Based Reasoning and directly contradicted the scientific consensus in a new law.  The state legislature has decided it knows more than scientists, and ruled that fetuses at 20 weeks are capable of feeling pain.

Mark Rosen is a scientist who studies fetal pain.  He’s got lots of peer reviewed, scientific data, and sent it to the Nebraska legislature.  So we know they didn’t pass the law out of ignorance.  They did it out of willful disregard for the truth.

The first brain pathways associated with pain perception “are not complete before approximately 29 weeks of gestation”, so although fetuses develop brain wiring from about 23 weeks onwards, the connections are not there to enable them to experience pain.

There is scant evidence or opinion to the contrary in the scientific community, but it does exist.  One theory is that before nerves for pain reception are completely formed in the cortex, the subcortex is formed well enough that IF fetuses feel pain through the subcortex, they might feel pain.

However, this theory hardly matters, since fetuses are typically given an anesthetic to prevent harm to the mother from involuntary fetal responses.  Additionally, in abortions where the heart is functional, the fetus is given either digoxin or potassium chloride before the procedure, so feeling pain is simply not an issue in any case.

There isn’t much of a mystery as to what this is about.  It’s clearly not about scientific accuracy, and it’s clearly furthering the political (religious) agenda for banning abortion in as many cases as possible.  But why Nebraska?  The most obvious answer is that Nebraska is where LeRoy Carhart practices.  He’s an abortion provider who is willing to do late term abortions.  So this legislation is directly targeting him.  If he does not sue, his late-term practice will be shut down.  If he does sue, the case could end up first in the Nebraska Supreme Court, and then the U.S. Supreme Court.  Roe v. Wade is still not safe.



7 thoughts on “Religion Trumps Science in New Law

  1. I think one of the memes that should be spread actively is that you can still hold a position, but still not accept all the arguments for it.

    Another meme I think should be spread is that it’s ok to point out that some people hold your position due to illegitimate reasons and they should re-evaluate.

    So even though I’m pro-life I don’t think the throwing out of science is a good thing or will get us anywhere.

    As a side note, I would also point out that to assume that abortion is strictly or mostly a religious issue is accessablity bias.

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | May 1, 2010, 2:26 pm
  2. Oh Hamby, Hamby, Hamby…

    Again, You seemed to again dismiss any evidence that may sway your Atheist objectivity!
    You left out some critical information from your summation…

    “So where did the Nebraska legislators find evidence for their claims?

    One widely cited researcher is Kanwaljeet Anand of UT Medical Group, the private practice arm of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Speaking on behalf of the US Department of Justice at a court hearing in 2004 (PDF), he said that in his opinion a fetus subjected to an abortion could feel “severe and excruciating pain” as early as 20 weeks.

    Does he stand by that?

    Yes. He told me he believes that pain can be felt before the connections to the cortex are in place; he thinks it is then felt in the subcortex, which matures earlier. His rationale for this is that adults can feel pain in the subcortex even if their sensory cortex is removed. “The cortex is not required for pain perception in the adult, so why use it as a criterion of pain in the fetus?” he asks.

    As to when this subcortical pain can be felt, Anand says there’s no certainty yet. But he says that preterm babies resuscitated at 22 to 23 weeks show “robust” responses to the insertion of intravenous drips and the fitting of scalp electrodes”

    Read these parts over and over again before you continue to be so quick as to want to scrap a 29 week old fetus from its womb..

    …. “The cortex is not required for pain perception in the adult, so why use it as a criterion of pain in the fetus?” he asks…..

    ……22 to 23 week old fetuses “Show robust responses” to electodes and IV needles

    Not about scientific accuracy… Pffffft.


    Posted by PG | May 1, 2010, 8:32 pm
  3. It may seem odd to you, PG, but the truth is that there are a lot of people in the world who read things through thoroughly. You can’t just quote mine and expect to get away with it. You, Mr. Kettle, did the same thing you accused me of — skipping over the salient paragraph. In your case, it was the paragraph that followed:

    “What do other pain specialists think?

    Most agree with Rosen – that fetuses develop the ability to sense pain somewhere between 26 and 29 weeks. In the UK, a 1997 review concluded that fetuses are unlikely to feel pain before 29 weeks. Likewise, a report on abortion in 2007 by the UK House of Commons select committee on science and technology concluded that fetal pain is unlikely earlier than 26 weeks.

    Coinciding with Rosen’s 2005 review was a paper by David Mellor of Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, and colleagues which concluded from work on sheep that fetuses are unconscious in a sleep-like state throughout pregnancy.”

    The consensus, PG, is overwhelming. The evidence presented by the dissenters is unconvincing.

    Posted by hambydammit | May 2, 2010, 12:27 pm
  4. My position on pro-life vs pro-choice has slowly began to waver as I’ve read more into the issue of embryology development and, oddly, Abigail Adams.

    I don’t think I can fairly stand by the claim anymore that an embryo more than a few weeks old is ‘just a clump of cells’ (though I still think the ‘potential life’ arguments are, at their core, absurd and theistic) – it’s very clearly becoming a protoform of it’s parent at that stage, with very real sensations developing at perhaps 30 or so weeks. From this perspective, I think the issue of ‘does the fetus feel pain when it’s aborted?’ is something of a Red Herring; at the very least, it’s not at all the right question to be doing a tug of war over. There’s lots of painless ways to dispatch a mature human being, afterall; if I murder someone via nitrogen asphyxiation, does the killing now no longer count?

    The issue isn’t pain – it’s suffering, which is perhaps closely tied to pain, but not wholly encompassed by it. How much suffering are we inflicting by allowing abortion to continue? It appears to be much more than I’d ever originally thought, to be honest. How much suffering would we be inflicting by outlawing the practice? I would still imagine the number to be much larger, especially when one considers what ‘inventive’ methods desperate pregnant teens might pursue once legal & safe medical abortions are no longer available to them.

    I don’t really know what to say about the issue now, or what kind of legislation to support.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | May 3, 2010, 12:07 am
  5. Pssst Hamby,

    You skipped over the real salient facts;

    “One widely cited researcher is Kanwaljeet Anand of UT Medical Group”…..
    ….”Speaking on behalf of the US Department of Justice at a court hearing in 2004”

    Ill take those credentials over studies that are unconvincing or were based on research done on sheep!


    Posted by PG | May 3, 2010, 9:38 pm
  6. Nerves and physical pain reception isnt all there is put to the side there is an element that is missed in your equation which is the spiritual feeling of pain afterwards

    Posted by Me | September 12, 2012, 10:18 pm


  1. Pingback: Genes, Environment, and Behavior « Life Without a Net - May 2, 2010

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