Statement of Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey)


What appears immediately below is the text of remarks made by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on May 20, 2004, after introducing the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (H.R. 4420).

Abortion is Excruciatingly Painful to Unborn Children

In expert testimony provided to the Northern District of the US District Court in California on April 15 during the Partial-Birth Abortion trials, Dr. Sunny Anand, Director of the Pain Neurobiology Laboratory at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute explained, “the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.”

Dr. Anand further described before the court that, “The highest density of pain receptors per square inch of skin in human development occurs in utero from 20 to 30 weeks gestation. During this period, the epidermis is still very thin, leaving nerve fibers closer to the surface of the skin than in older neonates and adults.” He went on to explain that, “…the pain inhibitory mechanisms (fibers which dampen and modulate the experience of pain) do not begin to develop until 32-34 weeks of gestation. Thus, a fetus at 20-32 weeks of gestation would experience a much more intense pain than older infants or children or adults, when these age groups are subjected to similar types of injury or handling…”

He also pointed out that on the question of fetal consciousness, “More that 3 decades of research shows that preterm infants are actively perceiving learning, and organizing information, and are constantly striving to regulate themselves, their environment and their experiences. All preterm infants actively approach and favor experiences that are developmentally supporting and actively avoid experiences that are developmentally disruptive.”

So today, Senator Brownback and I are introducing the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act. The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act would require that those performing abortions at or beyond the 20-week point, provide the mother with certain information regarding the capacity of the unborn child to experience pain during the abortion, and offer the mother the option of having pain-reducing drugs administered directly to the unborn child to reduce his or her pain.

Specific Provisions:

Before an abortion involving a pain capable child begins, the abortionist must provide to the woman:

– an oral statement that says Congress has determined that at this stage of development an unborn child has the physical structures to feel pain and than an abortion would likely cause pain to the unborn child. Therefore, she has THE OPTION of choosing to have anesthesia administered directly to the unborn child if she so desires in order to reduce or eliminate pain.

– a brochure that has more detailed information on her option to have pain-reducing drugs for the unborn child.

The bill language specifically ensures the abortion provider’s right to inform the woman of any risks to her according to his or her best medical judgment.

An abortion provider who does not comply with the provisions in the bill would be subject to civil penalties. The penalty for the first offense would be a suspension of medical license and/or a civil penalty less than $100,000. For a second offense the penalty would be revocation of medical license and/or a civil penalty less than $250,000.

In addition, a woman on whom an abortion was performed in a knowing and reckless violation of this law would have a private right of action for actual and punitive damages.

The recent Partial-Birth Abortion Ban trials have cut through the denial and drawn new attention to the pain that unborn children feel during an abortion. Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has conceded that unborn children feel pain during abortion. In a February Motion to Exclude Evidence Regarding Fetal Pain in the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban trials the ACLU went so far as to argue that testimony on fetal pain in relation to partial birth abortion was irrelevant partly because dilation and evacuation abortion, involving dismemberment, is more painful than a partial birth abortion.

So the question isn’t whether unborn babies suffer pain during an abortion, but how much. In their own words, the ACLU motion conceded:

“Dr. Anand admitted under oath that a dilation and evacuation procedure involving dismemberment–an abortion procedure that Defendant claims falls outside the scope of the Act — is more painful than a dilation and extraction procedure involving intact delivery… In light of this concession that an assertedly legal procedure is more painful than the one the statute purportedly bans, Defendant has no basis for contending that fetal pain is an interest advanced by the Act.”

I happen to agree with the ACLU’s contention that the method of abortion called Dilation and Evacuation causes incredible pain, maybe even more pain than a Partial-Birth Abortion. The Dilation and Evacuation method of abortion, which is used in most second trimester abortions, involves the abortionist grasping the unborn child’s body parts at random with a long-toothed clamp. The fetal body parts are then torn off of the body and pulled out of the mother. The remaining body parts are grasped and pulled out, one by one, until only the head remains. The head is then grasped and crushed in order to finally remove it from the mother.

It takes 30 minutes from beginning to end.

We don’t even allow livestock to be treated that way in this country. Congress requires pain to be minimized when livestock are slaughtered, and has numerous provisions to prevent pain in laboratory animals, but nothing for unborn human beings. Section 2 of the Humane Slaughter Act (7 U.S.C. 1902) states:

”No method of slaughter or handling in connection with slaughtering shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States unless it is humane. Either of the following two methods of slaughtering and handling are hereby found to be humane: (i) in the case of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine, and other livestock, all animals are rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut.”

Women have the right to know the facts about the medical development of unborn children and that they have the option to minimize or eliminate the pain an unborn child would feel during an abortion. An April 15-17 Zogby Poll found that 77% of the public favor “laws requiring that women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancy be given information about fetal pain before having an abortion.” Only 16% disagreed.

It is time that we opened our eyes to the terrible pain that unborn children feel every day during abortions performed in our cities and towns. Right down the street babies are being ripped limb from limb in a way that would create an outcry if they did it to a cat, dog or pig. Let’s stop the denial and recognize the truth — abortion is excruciatingly painful to unborn children.