Hillsdale stu­dents at the ‘March for Life’ last weekend in Wash­ington, D.C. Josephine von Dohlen | Col­legian

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.