June 03, 2011


Behind the Right's Fetal-Pain Push

by Kate Sheppard | Mother Jones

Five states have enacted scientifically suspect anti-abortion laws that are likely to face court challenges. For abortion foes, that's the point.

(May 26, 2011) It started with Nebraska. Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Indiana recently followed suit. The laws, with names like the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act," ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The latest wave of a broader conservative push to restrict abortion access nationwide, the measures are premised on the idea that fetuses can feel pain at this stage in gestation and should therefore be afforded state protections. Based on dubious science, some of the laws are bound to face legal challenges. For anti-abortion crusaders, this may be precisely the point.

Last week, Minnesota passed its own fetal pain bill (though the state's Democratic governor is expected to veto it)—and at least 11 other states, from Florida to Oregon, have considered similar bans. In most states, abortions are legal through the second trimester of pregnancy—up to 24 weeks—and in some cases longer when the mother's life is at risk. Despite what proponents of fetal pain legislation say, abortions performed after 20 weeks are exceedingly rare. Only 23 percent of abortion providers even offer them; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that just 1.4 percent of abortions occur at 21 weeks or beyond. Often a woman seeking an abortion later in her pregnancy does so because of a life-threatening medical problem, or a fetal abnormality that has only recently become apparent.

For the complete article, go to http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/05/fetal-pain-bills.