Saturday, June 26, 2010

'No foetal pain before 24 weeks'

Good news for supporters of abortion rights as The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a report stating that there is no evidence that foetuses feel paid before 24 weeks and therefore no reason to further reduce the legal time limit for abortions.

The report stated that brain connections are not fully formed, and the environment of the womb creates a state of induced sleep, like unconsciousness, they add. Foetuses at this stage are "undeveloped and sedated". It also found that there may well be no foetal pain well beyond 24 weeks.

Not only will this report make it harder for anti-abortionists to lobby for cuts in time limits, it will also provide comfort and reassurance to women facing the stressful decision of whether to continue or terminate an unwanted pregnancy. A difficult decision is made slightly less difficult without the worry - often brought on by untrue and alarmist anti-abortion propaganda - that a foetus may feel pain.

This report has, of course, seriously annoyed anti-abortion groups, which rarely allow such small matters as facts and medical science get in the way of following the instructions of their god. They had been pinning their hopes of further restricting women's abortion rights on the election of a Tory government, recognising that there is sufficient commitment to those rights within the labour movement that a Labour government was unlikely to do so even while it attacked the working class in other ways. That commitment comes from an understanding that when abortion rights are restricted, it is working-class women who suffer the most - having fewer choices available and being less able to access private treatment.

Anti-abortion group Life responded to the report by saying that, "the issue of whether or not an unborn child feels pain is highly peripheral to the ethical debate over abortion. Our intrinsic dignity as human beings does not in any way depend on the extent of our ability to feel pain."

Now tell me this. If a report had appeared asserting that foetuses can feel pain before 24 weeks' gestation, do you think that Life and their fellow anti-abortionists would dismiss it as "peripheral"?! No, I don't think so either.