Medical experts agree that fetal pain begins at 14 weeks gestation, maybe even as early as 8 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 an unborn baby fighting for its life during a saline injection:
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’s sac, burning the fetus from the outside and poisoning her from the inside. During this slow death, which takes about two hours, the fetus thrashes around inside the womb. Her heart rate more than doubles as a response to the solution, in spite of the fact that her heart is not physically touched by the solution.
She dies solely from the pain.
Today’s Methods 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. But at the time of Roe v. Wade, saline abortion was the most commonly used form of abortion after 16 weeks. Though the methods have changed, they are no less violent.
Former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino describes 1st trimester dilation and curettage abortions and 2nd trimester dilation and evacuation abortions, two common practices which tear babies limb from limb, finally crushing the skull to fit it through the cervix. “The abortionist knows he has crushed the skull when a white substance comes out of the cervix. This 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 digoxen injection piercing the baby’s head or chest.
The Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart 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 “constructs substantial obstacle to the abortion right.” To the pro-choice movement, the right to abortion trumps every argument, even that of fetal pain.
When Can a Fetus Feel Pain?
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. It was Anand’s opinion that “the human fetus possess the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.”
Rep. Kristi Noem from South Dakota says that this is because the unborn baby’s “nervous system isn’t developed enough to block that pain.”
Dr. Anand’s report summarizes fetal pain receptor development:
- 4 – 6 weeks: the fetus’s 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’s lips become sensitive to the touch around seven weeks. By eight weeks, the 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 sixteen weeks, and yet at eleven weeks the fetus can already respond to taste.
- 12 weeks: the fetus’s neurotransmitters can send pain signals to the brain. Her cerebrial 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’s “general sense organs” begin to differentiate into “free nerve terminations” responding to pain, temperature and chemicals, “lamelated corpuscles” responding to pointed pressure, “tactile corpuscles”, “neuromuscular spindles”, and “neurotendinous end organs” responding to light and pointed pressure. Her vocal chords 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 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 only about five inches long. She is small enough to fit in the palm of her mother’s hand, and 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.
- Products that Use Aborted Fetuses
- When Does a Fetus Develop a Heartbeat?
- Of Acorns, Eggs, and Captive Violinists: When Does Human Life Begin?
- Shouldn’t Women Be Able to Control Their Own Bodies?
 Magda Denes. “Performing Abortions.” Commentary, October 1976, pages 33 to 37.
 Sue Brattle. “Can a Fetus Feel Pain?” London Daily Express, August 6, 1996, pages 25 and 26.