Medical experts agree that fetal pain begins at 12 weeks gestation and may even be felt as early as eight weeks. But perhaps the best source for firsthand experience with fetal pain is an abortionist.
As early as 1976, those performing abortions realized that the procedure is painful for the dying fetus. Abortionist John Szenes describes a preborn baby fighting for his life during a saline injection, saying: “All of a sudden one noticed that at the time of the saline infusion there was a lot of activity in the uterus. That’s not fluid currents. That’s obviously the fetus being distressed by swallowing the concentrated salt solution and kicking violently and that’s, to all intents and purposes, the death trauma.”1
Saline solution used in this type of abortion causes intense pain when injected under the skin. This solution is injected into the fetus’ sac, burning her from the outside and poisoning her from the inside. During this slow death, which takes about two hours, she thrashes around inside the womb. In spite of the fact that her heart is not physically touched by the solution, her heart rate more than doubles as a response to it.
She dies solely from the pain.
Today’s Abortions Are Just as Violent
Saline abortions fell out of use in the 1990s because of the risk to mothers and the frequency of babies being born alive. At the time of Roe v. Wade, saline abortion was the most commonly used form of abortion after 16 weeks. But ahough the methods have changed, they are no less violent.
Former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino confirms this as he describes 1st trimester dilation and curettage abortions and 2nd trimester dilation and evacuation abortions—two common abortion procedures that tear babies limb from limb, finally crushing the skull so that it will fit through the cervix. According to Levatino: “You know you did it [the abortion] right if you crush down on the instrument and white material runs out of the cervix. That was the baby’s brains.”
Dr. Levatino also describes babies being deprived of shelter and nutrients inside the womb by abortion pills and being poisoned with a digoxin injection piercing the baby’s head or chest. This causes the baby’s death by cardiac arrest.
In Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court provides a gruesome description of a D&E abortion: “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: it bleeds to death as it is torn apart limb by limb.”
The ugliness of abortion is not a foreign concept to anyone involved in it.
These inhumane death procedures would not be acceptable for any animal, yet they are used regularly to kill the most innocent and fragile human beings.
The pro-abortion movement denies that the fetus feels pain, but anyone who performs an abortion knows this is not true. The uncaring attitude of many abortionists is summed up in the words of Anne Marie Keary, the head of Britain’s National Abortion Campaign back in 1996: “Pain is a factor in life; could an element of pain be a justification for no more abortions? I don’t think so.”2
Even Judge Anthony Kennedy, though he voted for a ban of partial-birth abortions, argued against the ban of very similar D&E abortions, saying that such a ban would “construct a substantial obstacle to the abortion right.”
To the pro-abortion movement, the right to abortion trumps every argument, even that of fetal pain.
When Does a Fetus Feel Pain?
An article from the Charlotte Lozier Institute reviews a 2019 study entitled “Reconsidering Fetal Pain” published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. According to the organization:
A new study “Reconsidering Fetal Pain” confirms that babies in the womb can feel pain as early as 12 weeks old. Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Stuart W.G. Derbyshire and John C. Bockmann state: “Overall, the evidence, and a balanced reading of the evidence, points towards an immediate and unreflective pain experience mediated by the developing function of the nervous system as early as 12 weeks.”
Dr. David Prentice, research director and vice president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, responded to the study, saying:
Unborn babies feel pain. The science has clearly shown for years that unborn children can perceive pain in the womb, but this is a significant admission by doctors on both sides of the abortion debate, recognizing that even early in human development, the unborn can feel pain. And as the authors note, “the mere experience of pain … is morally significant.” Science again points to the humanity of the unborn.
Kanwaljeet Anand, professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology, and neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, wrote an expert report on the subject of fetal pain in 2004 to assist the Supreme Court in its assessment of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Dr. Anand’s report summarizes fetal pain receptor development:
- 4 – 6 weeks: The fetus’ cerebral cortex is formed, and she develops reflexes.
- 6 – 8 weeks: Brain waves can be recorded, and the nervous system starts to develop. The fetus’ lips become sensitive to the touch around seven weeks. By eight weeks, she is moving around the uterus to make herself more comfortable. She begins to react to harmful stimuli.
- 10 weeks: Her whole body is sensitive to the touch. She can now swallow, squint, frown, pucker her brow, and make a fist if her palm is touched. The most common forms of abortion at this age are suction and dilation and curettage. Imagine what an uncomfortable, if not painful, death this is on her sensitive little body.
- 11 weeks: The fetus will start to swallow more amniotic fluid if it is artificially sweetened and less if it is bitter. Saline injection is used after 16 weeks; yet at 11 weeks the fetus can already respond to taste.
- 12 weeks: The fetus’ neurotransmitters can send pain signals to the brain. Her cerebral cortex is only about 30 to 40 percent developed, but her response to pain is at least proportional to that amount, as confirmed by A. William Liley, the “Father of Modern Fetology” and Mortimer Rosen, an American researcher.
- 13 – 17 weeks: The fetus’ “general sense organs” begin to differentiate into “free nerve terminations” responding to pain, temperature and chemicals, “lamellated corpuscles” responding to pointed pressure, “tactile corpuscles,” “neuromuscular spindles,” and “neurotendinous end organs” responding to light and pointed pressure. Her vocal cords and auditory sense are now present, and she may cry if air bubbles get in the uterus.
- After 14 weeks: The fetus will cry, wiggle her body, or throw out her arms if her mother moves too suddenly or if she hears a loud noise. She must be sedated during surgery, just like any other patient. If she is irritated, her heartbeat will increase and she will move around, showing this sensation to be unpleasant.
At this point in her development, the fetus weighs only about two ounces and is about five inches long. She is small enough to fit in the palm of her mother’s hand, yet she can react to outside stimuli just like a grown person can. And even with a developed response system, she can legally be killed by chemical burns, dismemberment, suffocation, starvation, and worse while her mother is convinced by her killers that there is no fetal pain.
If this kind of treatment is illegal for children, adults, and animals, it should be illegal for the preborn as well.
 Magda Denes, “Performing Abortions,” October 1976, pages 33 to 37.
 Sue Brattle, “Can a Fetus Feel Pain?” London Daily Express, August 6, 1996, pages 25 and 26.