Dr. Norig Ellison, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Drugs administered to the mother, either local anesthesia administered in the paracervical area or sedatives/analgesics administered intramuscularly or intravenously, will provide little-to-no analgesia [pain relief] to the fetus. [Senate Judiciary Committee, Nov. 17, 1995 hearing record, page 226]
On March 21, 1996, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution conducted a public hearing on "The Effects of Anesthesia During a Partial-Birth Abortion." Four leading experts in the field testified that the fetuses/babies who are old enough to be "candidates" for partial-birth abortion possess the neurological equipment to respond to painful stimuli, whether or not the mother has been anesthetized. Opponents of the bill were unable to produce a single medical witness willing to testify in support of the claims that anesthesia kills the fetus or renders the fetus insensible to pain. [See House Judiciary Committee Hearing Record No. 73, March 21, 1996.)
Dr. Jean A. Wright, associate professor of pediatrics and anesthesia at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, testified that recent research shows that by the stage of development that a fetus could be a "candidate" for a partial-birth abortion (20 weeks), the fetus "is more sensitive to pain than a full-term infant would be if subjected to the same procedures," Prof. Wright testified. These fetuses have "the anatomical and functional processes responsible for the perception of pain," and have "a much higher density of Opioid (pain) receptors" than older humans, she said.
Dr. David Birnbach, president-elect of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology, testified, "Having administered anesthesia for fetal surgery, I know that on occasion we need to administer anesthesia directly to the fetus because even at these early ages the fetus moves away from the pain of the stimulation." [hearing record, page 288]
At a hearing before the same panel on June 15, 1995, Professor Robert White, Director of the Division of Neurosurgery and Brain Research Laboratory at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, testified, "The fetus within this time frame of gestation, 20 weeks and beyond, is fully capable of experiencing pain." After analyzing the partial-birth procedure step-by-step for the subcommittee, Prof. White concluded: "Without question, all of this is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure." [House Judiciary Committee hearing No. 31, June 15, 1995, page 70.] Prof. Jean Wright concluded, "This procedure, if it were done on an animal in my institution, would not make it through the institutional review process. The animal would be more protected than this child is." [hearing record, page 286]
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