Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Controversial Study Results Announced: Fetal Pain

Anti-abortion activists have gained ground in recent years using arguments that fetal pain awareness develops as early as ~20 weeks. Regardless of one's position on the legal state of reproductive rights, this assertion gives one reason to pause. Contrary to what the radical right would have us believe, pro-choice advocates are not heartless monsters unconcerned with the perceptive abilities of fetuses. The question of pre-natal sentience may very well be the most divisive element of the abortion debate, even within pro-choice circles.

A recent study published by researchers at UC San Francisco, however, challenges this 20-week view.
A review of medical evidence has found that fetuses likely don't feel pain until the final months of pregnancy, a powerful challenge to abortion opponents who hope that discussions about fetal pain will make women think twice about ending pregnancies.

But the report, appearing in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, says that offering fetal pain relief during abortions in the fifth or sixth months of pregnancy is misguided and might result in unacceptable health risks to women.

A number of states have proposed legislation requiring pregnant women to be counseled on fetal pain awareness, with pro-choice advocates seeing this attempt as little more than naked coercion. The Associated Press writer adds that critics of the study "disputed the findings and claimed the report is biased".


Lily said...

As you know I have heaps of discomfort with this aspect... as I relayed in the past, the fact that many clinics tend to wait until a 12-16 week window for greater success is troublesome when the fetal pain issue is mentioned.. I still say it should be earlier, at that point the fetus is sucking its thumb...yet is also seems like a form of coercive behavior, tough call.. perhaps it also 'seems' educational, depending on whether or not a woman actually seeks out this type of counseling. I think that as it is- women have to contend with hecklers and shouts and barricades- if that type of coersion is free speech I suppose fetal pain counseling falls under the same...category.
The reality is that we will allow it in this version of America. We allow access to students by military recruiters, access to private data, and yet we do not allow people to counsel on alternatives such as Americorps. We seem to value information when it suits the purposes of one set of people, and not another!
While they counsel women on fetal pain, have a chart showing how many of these babies would have health insurance, adequate nutrition, etc. were they to be born in this version of America. As the saying remains-prolife, but only until they are born. Then...who cares.

Geo_Chick said...

Often abortions performed later in pregnancy require sedation. If you are knocked out, so is the fetus. I don't understand the need to add guilt to an already difficult decision. Well, I do, I mean those opposed to abortion will pull anything they can.

Lily said...

Well, I am no expert but the rationale given for the 12-16 week window is that it eases the procedure and delivers a more "easily confirmed" result. Opponents of abortion clearly do not want to make the process 'easier" or less traumatic. (So yes, generally, not always, sedation is used at that point). But I still say that the technology exists to terminate much earlier, in less invasive ways. SOME research shows that the longer a woman carries the fetus, the less likely she will follow through with the plan to abort. Opponents know this and do not exactly line up to support more "humane" or earlier methods.
If that is true, and IF it is true that at later points there is an increased likelihood of fetal pain, it seems (and I realize this is circular) that the obstructionists to earlier abortion also play a role in the necessity of inflicting this pain... by fighting efforts to have technology available for earlier abortions before the sensory/nervous systems are as developed.
It never occurred to me that waiting until the baby can suck its thumb and kick is a blessing because it necessitates sedation!!!!

KJ said...

"SOME research shows that the longer a woman carries the fetus, the less likely she will follow through with the plan to abort."

A woman doesn't abort? What a friggin' tragedy!

Didn't bother to mention that of the five panelists, one was an abortion clinic director and one was a former NARAL staffer. I'm sure you would consider a panel of RJR executives that said cigarettes weren't that bad for you to be equally valid though, wouldn't you.

Lily said...

I did not make any judgement really on tragedy- as to whether or not preventing an abortion is a good thing or a bad thing, just stated that a consequence of limited procedure options is that many are performed later than they perhaps must be. How can we talk about fetal pain and not talk about the necessity of waiting so long, why not explore earlier ways? I simply stated that in either case it seems more humane not to wait as long to have one, and I wonder why this aspect does not seem to compel people to pursue new technology toward that end.
I am not pro-life, or all inclusively pro choice- I am not an extreme "all or nothing" thinker... but I do favor more "humane" choice. I think that is possible. To deprive others of choice simply because of my present opinions (which have changed) is unfair, but it does not mean I favor vacuuming out a kicking human being. The parasite/organism/when life starts/ life outside the womb/ what god wants/ type of stuff does not concern my feeling that there is choice and there is extreme.
Saying a parent has the choice to spank for discipline does not mean a parent has the right to beat the shit out of their kid. See, this tiresome talk gets bogged down when people get into this right/no right type thinking, black and white, all or nothing. I think many of us just consider it in terms of common sense. Sans hysterics.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Well, but the "technology" does exist in the form of the "plan B" emergency contraceptive and RU486. If you've caught the news lately, however, you've probably heard that the FDA is still withholding approval on plan B while they "await further public comment". And I trust you're aware of the controversy over RU486.

It would seem that no matter what the technique (pharmaceutical, surgical), those opposed to abortion in any form are lobbying with everything they've got to prevent it. What's truly stunning, to me, is that this is the same crowd that also insists on "abstinence only" eduction.

Did you hear about the program in Canton, where, after several years of teaching abstinence-only (with no other sex ed of any kind, including condom use advocacy), the teen pregnancy rate at the school is up to something like 13%?? 65 of 490 students. Sixty five??!?!? Here's a link to the curriculum data, and here's a link to a Canton newspaper covering the pregnancy rates. Granted, the netroots buzz is what's drawing the causal lines between the program and the pregnancies, and so far there don't seem to be any "official" stories connecting the two, but it sure strikes me as highly suspicious...

Geo_Chick said...

I think the all or nothing choices are extreme as well. Recently by sister-in-law had to have an abortion at 21 weeks. They found a genetic disease that would have meant the baby lived less than a year (in extreme pain, hooked up to machines) and decided to terminate rather than put their family and child thru it. She was very anti-abortion/pro-life prior to this. But sometimes life forces you to change your mind. The late term abortion was so hard on her and she had to walk past protesters to get it. The irony is painful.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Extreme, indeed. GC. The hard-right allows no place for quality-of-life arguments, and would no doubt unanimously condemn your SIL's decision. This is where their logic truly falls apart for me, and shows that their position is truly pro-birth only. The lone concession I see made regularly is for ectopic pregnancy, which is really no concession at all, since the fetus does not survive in that instance anyway.
Your SIL's example is why I've insisted (in other threads) that experience DOES contribute a definitive authority in some subjects. We all live comfortably in one absolute or another until some kind of event challenges what we hold dear. And until we've actually walked the path, it's rather arrogant to presume that we can always know what's Right for everyone else.

Lily said...

I do agree that we cannot RELATE until we've "walked the path" but I also do not think (as you know) all experience translates into authority. I can have ten abortions and have no improved say about your particular fetus! It is rarely helpful to be judgemental in any case. Much as I cannot fathom being too busy to read a paper, or a bedtime story, I can appreciate that this is judgemental and that I do not walk in 'their' shoes. I can understand a person wanting religion to define what is not easily concluded in terms of extreme right/wrong, I can relate to the weariness of soul searching.. and the challenges of letting go of the idea that our way is the only way. How much easier to feel that way, to think we know one course for all people!
In this case, many that oppose feel it is their moral obligation to speak out for the unborn, not to judge the validity of the decision or circumstances of the mother. "They" say the fetus does not know if it was conceived by incest, rape, or by an eleven year old mother... it matters not to the unborn. They tend not to really consider the mother in that stance.
If I said I had an abortion would it change the merits of what I say on this matter? Would it make me any more qualified to judge another woman in yet another situation? See I think not, I do not think having had an abortion or never having one gives me any more freedom or right to judge or contribute to policy or law that affects other women. My story would not be their story. That is the basis for why I do not agree with the authority aspect. The LACK of authority, experienced or not, is to me the crux of my belief in choice. Not because I favor abortion, but because I do recognize that I cannot have that "authority". I would prefer the methods you describe, and others, be more readily available for early use. I prefer a common sense approach, devoid of "when life begins" type debates. All or nothing extremism. Do it early, do it humanely, don't force a woman to wait until she is four months pregnant because that is how some clinic prefers it... make the available technology accessible. Stop the bullshit games being played with women's health. Using medicine, options- health care choices as pawns in political games.
Quality of life? It doesn't seem to occur to anyone to value these babies after they leave the uterus, they can cut head start, WIC, child health, education, food programs.. I'd like to see some of these people that favor a culture of life FOSTER a culture of life!!!! Life, from cradle to grave.