I was glued to CSPAN all afternoon. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has passed the House twice — in 2013 and 2015. But I was still on the edge of my seat, yelling at my laptop in the Grewcock Student Union.
U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R‑Arizona, introduced the bill, which passed the House on Tuesday. If passed, it would ban abortiona after 20 weeks — the time when it is generally understood that unborn children are developed enough to feel pain during the procedure.
The investigation into the science of fetal pain began about 25 years ago when Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, now a professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, began studying the pain capabilities of newborns.
At the time, it was an uncommon practice to administer anesthetics to newborns for procedures because it was thought that their nervous systems were not fully developed. Research at the Imperial College of London shows that fetuses as early as 18 weeks cringed away from invasive medical procedures, and released stress hormones typically associated with the regulation of pain.
Further, Ray Paschall, an anesthesiologist at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, required higher doses of anesthesia for young fetuses after watching a 23 and 25 week old fetus flinch from a scalpel. “I don’t care how primitive the reaction is, it’s still a human reaction,” Paschall says. “And I don’t believe it’s right. I don’t want them to feel pain.”
One scientist says that the fetus is not “physiologically human,” meaning that it feels pain but the impact on its person is nonexistent, since it is truly not yet a person. This line of reasoning ends with the conclusion that babies may not feel pain up until a year after birth. Nevertheless, pain in fetuses and newborns might translate differently than adults, transforming their neural pathways in a permanent manner, indicating a fundamental perversion of the human person.
So, the representatives stand on the House floor, splitting hairs over how much pain the babies are in and which scientists supports which side’s purposes.
Predictably, the representatives against the bill protested the attempt of the government to seize control of women’s bodies and choices and send them back into the dark ages. Rep. Liz Cheney, R‑Wyoming, said it perfectly when she accused the pro-choice defendants of refusing to actually discuss the issues. She pointed out that the opposing Reps. don’t want talk about the lives of babies but were more than eager to talk about literally anything else.
The worst part was the irony. Hardly 48 hours after the Las Vegas shooting, Twitter was filled with declarations of love and solidarity, challenging their followers to do something “selfless for someone else today.” Yet, hardly two days later, Twitter was filled with angry tweets, demanding that reps. kill the bill and recognize first the rights of women to do with their bodies what they want. Twitter did not want to talk about the lives of babies.
As is so common in the abortion debate, women and men opt to advocate for the choice that suits them best. Ronald Reagan was right when he observed that “everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”
In the wake of tragedy, and in the face of suffering, Americans were still unable to look 59 million dead children in the eyes, 5 million of whom probably felt pain, as they were extracted from their mother’s womb.
So I called my dad and asked him to call our rep. I texted my sister. I suggested loudly to anyone sitting within earshot of me in A.J.’s Café that they give their rep. a ring, too. Because Twitter was right — we do need a little more love in the world.
Voting to pass the bill was a true act of love and selflessness. In the immediate aftermath of hate and hurt, it declared that we would not go quietly into the darkness of death.
Kathleen Russo is a junior majoring in American studies. She is the president of Hillsdale College Students for Life.