Wednesday, August 24, 2005

This Just In: Anti-Choice Lawmaker Talks Shite

Hmm, well somehow this contrived to pass me by the first time around: the not-at-all-polemically-named Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, sponsored in January by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas, the upright gent who brought us the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act; not to mention S. J. Res 26, the proposed constitutional amendment against gay marriage; and of course the vital-to-national-security call for the FTC to investigate the maker of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. On the other hand, he also sponsored the delightfully contrite Native American Apology Resolution, which along with $2.87 will buy them a tall latte. Native Americans might be excused for holding out on the gracious apology-acceptance until Brownback sponsors a resolution to, say, return the billions of dollars stolen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ahem).

This little legislative bagatelle 'would require those who perform abortions on unborn children 20 weeks after fertilization to inform the woman seeking an abortion of the medical evidence that the unborn child feels pain', and 'also ensure that the woman, if she chooses to continue with the abortion procedure after being given the medical information, has the option of choosing anesthesia for the child, so that the unborn child's pain is less severe.'

Senator Brownback's brownbackgrounder on the bill posits that '[m]any are unaware of the scientific, medical fact that unborn children can feel'. This might be attributable to the circumstance of its being neither scientific, nor medical, nor a fact. A new systematic review published in this month's Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that 'fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.'

For my fellow med-porn aficionados, the reasoning:
Fetal awareness of noxious stimuli requires functional thalamocortical connections. Thalamocortical fibers begin appearing between 23 to 30 weeks’ gestational age, while electroencephalography suggests the capacity for functional pain perception in preterm neonates probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks.
In addition, the provision on fetal anaesthesia not only promises no evident benefit for the fetus, but could potentially harm the woman undergoing the abortion:
Little or no evidence addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques. Similarly, limited or no data exist on the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in the context of abortion. Anesthetic techniques currently used during fetal surgery are not directly applicable to abortion procedures.
Not that we would expect Brownback & co. to be much bothered about the safety of a woman undergoing an abortion; we already know how highly they value the life of a woman as compared to that of any fetus she may be carrying. And of course it's not like Brownback and his fellow intelligent-design cult members have ever been all that concerned with niceties like scientific evidence. But still it's always nice to have one more pebble of actual empirical refutation on our side, if only to add to the vast unheeded mountain already there.

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