The foetal pain question is not central to the abortion debate. Whether the unborn child suffers pain during an abortion or not is secondary to the much bigger reality; the child is being killed. Quietly shooting someone in their sleep makes you no less guilty of murder than if you had stabbed them to death. Providing an unborn child with anesthesia so you can kill them "humanely" makes abortion no less heinous.
The real significance of the fetal pain question is in it's implications about the unborn. People feel pain. Inanimate clumps of cells do not. This is what is at stake.
The fact that fetuses can feel pain is really quite obvious. Since newborn babies can feel pain, fetuses can feel pain. There is no pain switch which suddenly switches to "on" during the journey through the birth canal. The only question is when do fetuses feel pain? The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act in the USA places a fetus' ability to feel pain at 20 weeks from fertilization, about half way through pregnancy. Twenty weeks is a conservative enough estimate that even some prominent abortion supporters have conceded it's reliability.
In the end, the question of fetal pain, like almost all abortion controversy comes down to who you believe. Many pro-life doctors maintain that fetuses can feel pain by 8 weeks after fertilization (about the time most surgical abortions take place). Pro-abortion doctors tend to argue that fetuses don't experience pain until the very end of pregnancy. Whose testimony is more reliable, those who have a financial interest in the availability of abortion or those who don't? Ethically speaking, who is going to be less likely to lie, those who believe dismembering living human beings is a legitimate medical practice or those who don't?
Sir Albert Lilley, widely considered the "Father of Foetology", and unabashedly pro-life (as anyone with his vast knowledge of fetal development should be) makes some remarkable statements about fetal pain in an interview he conducted for the book The Tiniest Humans.
Answer: Normally it would be extremely difficult, apart from putting a foreign instrument or needle into the uterus to apply pressure, but with a fetus at that maturity you have a very small fetus in a larger capsule of fluid. However, as the famous work of Dr. Davenport Hooker shows, in his many thousands of feet of film, babies at this maturity are responsive to touch.
The fetus also responds violently to painful stimuli-needle puncture and injection of cold or of hypertonic solutions- stimuli which you and I find painful, children will tell you are painful, and the neonate, to judge from his responses, finds painful.
None the less, evidence of paint exists
The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child's development in the womb.
Functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks, but certainly by 13.5 weeks of gestation. Sensory nerves, including nociceptors, reach the skin of the foetus before the 9th week of gestation.
The first detectable brain activity occurs in the thalamus between the 8th and 10th weeks. The movement of electrical impulses through the neural fibers and spinal column takes place between 8 and 9 weeks gestation. By 13.5 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body.
That the functioning neurological structures necessary for pain are in place between eight and 13.5 weeks corroborates and supplements the Amicus Curiae statement that in the seventh week, "the brain configuration is already like the adult brain," that "brain waves have been noted at forty-three days (6.14 weeks)," and particularly, "After the eighth week no further primordia will form: everything is already present that will be found in the full term baby."
If a full-term baby can feel pain, then it is reasonable to infer that a baby that is essentially like her, one in whom everything is already present that will be found in the full-term baby, must also feel pain when she is destroyed by the violence of abortion.
Recall also, "Dr. Still has noted that electroencephalographic waves have been obtained in forty-three to forty-five day old foetuses, and so conscious experience is possible after this date."(Does the Aborted Baby Feel Pain? in Liguorian, November 1984, pp.18-22)
With conscious experience, or soon after, comes the possibility of feeling pain.
The development of the central nervous system leading to "functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensations" at an age between 8 to 13.5 weeks begins early in the child. As was stated before, "commencing at eighteen days the developmental emphasis is on the nervous system"; and "by the end of the twentieth day the foundation of the child's brain, spinal cord and entire nervous system will have been established."
What are the neurological structures necessary to feel pain? In Fetal Pain and Abortion: The Medical Evidence (Vincent J.Collins, M.D., Steven R Zielinski, M.D., and Thomas J. Marzen, Esq., Chicago: AUL Inc. no. 18, 1984) states that three elements are required:
1. Pain receptive nerve cells
2. Neural pathways and the
The thalamus is a portion of the brain that "lies above the spinal cord and brainstem, but below the cerebral cortex." The cortex is the seat of higher mental functions. It is very significant, in the present context, that the presence of a functioning cortex is not necessary to pain sensation. Even complete removal of the cortex does not eliminate the sensation of pain; no portion of the cortex, if artificially stimulated, results in pain sensation.
It follows, therefore, that neither the presence of the cortex nor transmission of pain impulses to the cortex are essential to pain sensation. When the cortex (which develops and functions later in human gestation than the thalamus) is involved in a pain response, it generates elaborated aversive behavior and adds psychological and cognitive components to pain sensation.
In May 2012, a former abortionist, who admits to having committed around 1200 abortions, appeared before a U.S. House subcommittee. The hearing was on the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks in D.C., based upon the fact that unborn babies can experience pain at that stage of pregnancy. Dr. Anthony Levatino, who has since become pro-life, was speaking in favor of the ban.
For those who may be tempted to write off Levatino’s testimony because he’s just “another pro-life nutjob,” it’s interesting how his testimony has eerie echoes to that of notorious late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart, who is still involved in the gruesome trade. During a preliminary injunction hearing in a US District Court in 1997 on the issue of late-term abortions, Carhart testified that he would sometimes dismember advanced-stage unborn babies during abortions, while the babies were still alive. Carhart described in detail the process of grasping the limb of the baby to be removed, and then twisting it off. When asked if the babies usually die during the process of dismemberment, Carhart responded, “I don’t really know. I know that the fetus is alive during the process most of the time because I can see the fetal heartbeat on the ultrasound.”