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Unborn Babies Feel Pain


The question whether unborn babies feel pain is not at all central to the abortion debate. Whether the unborn child suffers pain during an abortion, or not, is secondary to the much bigger reality; the child is being killed. Shooting someone in their sleep makes you no less guilty of murder than if you had killed that person when he was awake. Providing an unborn child with an anaesthetic, so you can kill him or her “humanely”, makes abortion no less heinous.

However, the real significance of the fetal pain question is in its implications about fetuses (the unborn). People feel pain. This is the situation at stake. Those who advocate abortion want to dismiss this point because if infants feel pain, they are then not just a clump of cells but human.

So why would an unborn baby feel pain during an abortion? The following is only one of the horrific methods used by abortionists, it is called Dilatation & Evacuation (D&E). This is performed between 13 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.


The technique has largely replaced saline and chemical abortions, which too frequently resulted in live births – a complication from the abortionist’s perspective! A pliers-like instrument is needed because the baby’s bones are calcified, as is the skull.


There is no anaesthetic for the baby. The abortionist inserts the instrument (as with medical illustration on left) into the uterus, seizes a leg or other part of the body and, with a twisting motion, tears it from the baby’s body. This is repeated again and again. The spine must be snapped, and the skull crushed to remove them. The nurse’s job is to reassemble the body parts to be sure that all are removed.

Whilst there is growing medical evidence that the preborn feels “severe and extreme pain” during an abortion, the fact that the unborn can feel pain is really quite obvious. Since newborn premature babies can feel pain, unborn babies can feel pain. There is no pain switch which suddenly switches to “on” during the journey through the birth canal. The only question is when do the unborn feel pain? Whilst twenty weeks is a conservative enough estimate that some prominent abortion supporters have conceded, it is well known that as early as 8 weeks the palms on the hand of an unborn infant are sensitive to touch.

In the end, the question of fetal pain, like almost all abortion controversy comes down to who you believe.

Sir Albert Lilley, widely considered the “Father of Fetology”, and unabashedly pro-life, makes some remarkable statements about fetal pain in an interview he conducted for the book The Tiniest Humans .

Question: “In the case of an 8 to 10 week fetus, if you apply pressure will it tend to try to get out of the way?”

Answer: “Normally it would be extremely difficult, apart from putting a foreign instrument or needle into the uterus to apply pressure, but with a fetus at that maturity you have a very small fetus in a larger capsule of fluid. However, as the famous work of Dr. Davenport Hooker shows, in his many thousands of feet of film, babies at this maturity are responsive to touch.

“The fetus also responds violently to painful stimuli-needle puncture and injection of cold or of hypertonic solutions – stimuli which you and I find painful, children will tell you are painful, and the neonate, to judge from his responses, finds painful.”

“I have been told by advocates of abortion that we have no proof that the fetus actually feels pain. Strictly, they are quite correct. Pain is a peculiarly personal and subjective experience and there is no biochemical or physiological test we can do to tell that anyone is in pain – a phenomenon which makes it very easy to bear other people’s pain stoically, which is an important point for obstetricians to remember. By the same token we lack any proof that animals feel pain. However, to judge from their responses, it seems charitable to assume they do. Were this not so there would be no point in having an organization like the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and I for one would be unhappy to think we would withhold from the human fetus a charitable consideration we were prepared to extend to animals.”


The content of the above article was adapted from Abort73.com Does a Fetus Feel Pain?


Does the Unborn Child Feel Pain in an Abortion?

by Bill Muehlenberg

Those who seek to justify the killing of unborn babies resort to all sorts of myths and falsehoods to make their case and assuage their conscience. They in fact have to live in a world of lies and misinformation in order to defend their willingness to destroy the unborn, and make that defence seem palatable.Denying the humanity and personhood of the unborn child is of course one main way in which they proceed. And that is always the case with those who seek to oppress others: they seek to dehumanise the victims. Thus slave owners dehumanised blacks, just as baby-killers dehumanise the unborn.

Thus it is customary to hear that the unborn baby is just a blob of cells. As such, an abortion does not hurt it or cause it any pain. After all, ‘how can a clump of cells experience pain?’ the pro-abortionists argue. This rhetoric is just that: rhetoric. It is really about dehumanising the victim and ignoring the evidence.

Science has shown us quite clearly that babies do indeed feel pain. For example, surgeon Robert Shearin argues that unborn babies can experience pain at quite an early age: “As early as eight to ten weeks after conception, and definitely by thirteen-and-a-half weeks, the unborn experiences organic pain. . . . [At this point she] responds to pain at all levels of her nervous system in an integrated response which cannot be deemed a mere reflex. She can now experience pain.”

Another study said, “Physiologic responses to painful stimuli have been well documented in neonates of various gestational ages and are reflected in hormonal, metabolic, and cardiorespiratory changes similar to but greater than those observed in adult subjects. Other responses in newborn infants are suggestive of integrated emotional and behavioral responses to pain and are retained in memory long enough to modify subsequent behavior patterns.”

It concluded with this caution that “humane considerations should apply as forcefully to the care of neonates and young, nonverbal infants as they do to children and adults in similar painful and stressful situations.” More recently a British review of the latest research has found that an unborn baby is definitely aware of pain by 24 weeks, and possibly aware as early as 20 weeks.


Other research points to the fact that pain is being felt even before twenty weeks. As one doctor explains: “At twenty weeks, the child has all the parts in place – the pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts, and thalamus – needed for transmitting and feeling pain. The unborn child responds to touch as early as week six, and by week eighteen, pain receptors have appeared throughout the child’s body.”

And professor of neurobiology and anatomy Maureen L. Condic recently presented scientific evidence concerning the ability of unborn children to experience pain at a U.S. House subcommittee. I offer here a few excerpts from her written testimony:


“To experience pain, a noxious stimulus must be detected. The neural structures necessary to detect noxious stimuli are in place by 8-10 weeks of human development. There is universal agreement that pain is detected by the fetus in the first trimester. The debate concerns how pain is experienced; i.e., whether a fetus has the same pain experience a newborn or an adult would have. While every individual’s experience of pain is personal, a number of scientific observations address what brain structures are necessary for a mental or psychological experience of pain.

“First, it is clear that children born without higher brain structures (‘decorticate’ patients) are capable of experiencing pain and also other conscious behaviors … This indicates that the long-range connections that develop in the cortex only after 22 weeks (and are absent in these patients) are not obligatory for a psychological perception of pain….


“[W]hat we directly observe about fetal pain is very clear and unambiguous. Fetuses at 20 weeks post sperm-egg fusion have an increase in stress hormones in response to painful experiences that can be eliminated by appropriate anesthesia. Multiple studies clearly indicate ‘the human fetus from 18–20 weeks elaborates pituitary-adrenal, sympathoadrenal, and circulatory stress responses to physical insults.’ All of these responses reflect a mature, body-wide response to pain.”

But the pain of death is of course the biggest concern of all here. Even if the abortion procedure involved no pain at all, it still results in a dead baby. That should be all the reason we need to say no to abortion. Abortion does not solve the “problem” of pregnancy – it simply gives us a dead baby.

But abortion is both painful and lethal. It involves great pain and agony while it is being undertaken, and it gives us a dead child at the end. We rightly show pictures of young seals being clubbed to death, because we want to persuade civilised people to have this awful practice put to an end. Perhaps it is time we did the same with the awful practice of abortion. Indeed, isn’t it telling that those who most support abortion are those who get the most upset when we show them the product of their “choice”.


This article was used with permission by Bill Muehlenberg