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Could technology make most abortions unthinkable?

Abortion

The old medical practice of bleeding sick people was based on the ancient idea that the body contained four substances called “humors.” The doctor withdrew blood from the patient to restore the body’s balance. But advances in science and medicine have long since proven bloodletting to be wrongheaded and harmful. Looking back, I wonder how intelligent people could have thought that draining an already weak person’s lifeblood would cure him of his ailment.

I have hope that advances in medicine could cause future generations to view abortion in a way similar to bloodletting. For example, we now know that an unborn baby isn’t just a “blob of tissue.” What if technology one day reveals that an unborn baby can feel pain much earlier than previously thought?

Such states as Alabama, Indiana, and Louisiana ban abortions after 20 weeks on the theory that an unborn child can feel pain at that stage (with the elusive danger-to-mother exception). Last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The court contended that U.S. Supreme Court precedents allow women to kill unborn babies if they can’t live outside the womb.

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Some researchers say that babies in the womb can’t feel pain until the 24th week. Others say 28 weeks. Mary Spaulding Balch, who keeps track of state abortion legislation for National Right to Life, said a baby can feel pain earlier.

“By 20 weeks after fertilization, unborn children have pain receptors throughout their body, and nerves link these to the brain,” she said after Nebraska passed an abortion ban. “These unborn children recoil from painful stimulation, which also dramatically increases their release of stress hormones. Doctors performing fetal surgery at and after 20 weeks now routinely use fetal anesthesia.”

Can an unborn baby feel pain earlier than 20 weeks? In 1984, the formerly pro-abortion Dr. Bernard Nathanson created a video called “Silent Scream,” in which a 12-week unborn child appeared to scream in pain as he was torn apart in the womb. Nonsense, critics said, pointing out that at that stage an unborn child can’t move purposefully or perceive danger. Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood facility, quit her job after watching an abortion of a 13-week-old unborn baby via ultrasound “trying to get away from the probe that the doctor was using.” Were his movements purposeful and perceptive?

Imagine that a baby perceives and recoils from danger, trapped, as it were, inside the womb with nowhere to go. He instinctively tries to avoid the needle or the probe. He feels the pain as the instrument of death enters his body. And there’s nothing he can do about it. What will future generations think of us if research reveals that first-trimester babies feel pain and we continued to allow their dismemberment simply because their mothers don’t want them?

Our society has rapidly and shamefully evolved to make killing the “non-viable” unborn a “right,” when the baby’s humanness should be the standard. Technological advances have revealed so much about fetal development. As they reveal even more about this miraculous process, could future generations liken us to the uniformed bloodletters of the past?

La Shawn Barber
La Shawn Barber

La Shawn writes about culture, faith, and politics. Her work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, the Washington Examiner, and other publications

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