Bill Highlighting Unborn Child's Pain Introduced by Pro-Life Leaders in Congress

WASHINGTON (May 31, 2004) - - Pro-life leaders in Congress, with the strong backing of National Right to Life, have introduced a major new legislative initiative that throws a spotlight on the pain inflicted on unborn children by abortion.

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act was introduced on May 20 by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) (S. 2466) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) (H.R. 4420), with numerous cosponsors.

NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson, who appeared with Brownback and Smith at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol announcing the new legislation, said, "There are numerous laws to prevent cruelty to domestic and wild animals, but no law to prevent well-developed unborn children from suffering excruciating pain as they are torn limb from limb or crushed during abortions."

This bill would require every abortionist to provide, whenever a woman seeks an abortion past 20 weeks after fertilization, specified information about the capacity of her unborn child to experience pain during the abortion. After receiving that information - - including the offer of a government-produced brochure - - the woman would sign a form either accepting or refusing the administration of pain-reducing drugs directly to the unborn child.

The bill contains a number of proposed congressional "findings" regarding the scientific evidence that unborn children would experience great pain during abortions at 20 weeks (and perhaps earlier).

Any abortion provider convicted of violating the law would face stringent civil and regulatory penalties, including suspension or revocation of the abortionist's medical license. In addition, a woman on whom an abortion was performed in knowing and reckless violation of this law would be empowered to sue for actual and punitive damages.

Congressman Smith explained, "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."

In remarks on the Senate floor on the same day, Senator Brownback said, "Unborn children can experience pain. This is why unborn children are often administered anesthesia during in utero surgeries. . .. consider the D&E abortion. During this procedure, commonly performed after 20 weeks - - when there is medical evidence that the child can experience severe pain - - the child is torn apart limb from limb. Think about how that must feel to a young human. We would never allow a dog to be treated this way."

In a Zogby poll conducted in April, 77 percent of the public supported "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 percent disagreed.

The pain caused by the partial-birth abortion method has been the subject of testimony during the trials in lawsuits by pro-abortion groups challenging the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a federal law signed by President Bush last November. The Associated Press dispatch reported on April 7:

"A type of abortion banned under a new federal law would cause 'severe and excruciating' pain to 20-week-old fetuses, a medical expert testified [in a federal court in Nebraska]. 'I believe the fetus is conscious,' said Dr. Kanwaljeet 'Sonny' Anand, a pediatrician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Anand said yesterday that fetuses show increased heart rate, blood flow and hormone levels in response to pain. 'The physiological responses have been very clearly studied,' he said. 'The fetus cannot talk . . . so this is the best evidence we can get.'"

In an affidavit, Dr. Anand cited scientific evidence that "a fetus at 20 to 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," because the neurological mechanisms to sense pain develop before the mechanisms that "dampen and modulate the experience of pain."

In a parallel trial in New York, U.S. District Judge Richard Casey asked abortion practitioner Dr. Marilynn Fredriksen, "You will deliver the baby partially and then insert a pair of scissors in the base of the fetus' skull. ... Do you tell them whether or not that hurts the fetus?" Fredriksen snapped, "I have never talked to a fetus about whether or not they experience pain."

In the same trial, Planned Parenthood Attorney Eve Gartner said, "The question of whether or not a fetus can experience pain is irrelevant as a matter of law."

Reactions to Bill

Pro-abortion advocacy groups had no immediate public reaction to the introduction of the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act on May 20.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said, "We don't draw and quarter the worst criminals any more, and yet we subject the youngest and most innocent among us to the equivalent of that horrific death, and worse. The very least that any civilized people can do is minimize the pain and suffering of the smallest and most defenseless human beings among them as their lives are being violently stolen. We cannot imagine anyone but the most calloused could possibly be opposed to this humanitarian bill."

Gail Quinn, executive director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "In light of compelling testimony provided at the partial-birth abortion trials across the country that unborn children may experience excruciating pain during later-term abortions, passage of this bill is urgently needed."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, "Women have a right to know what happens when they have an abortion and they have a right to know the pain their unborn child will experience when it is being aborted. Anyone who would deny a woman such information is hardly a defender of women's rights."

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said that the bill "deserves the full support of legislators and citizens," because it "would advance awareness of what abortion does to the child."

David Stevens, M.D., executive director of the Christian Medical Association, said the organization supported the bill "because it is consistent with scientific integrity, compassion and the medical principle of informed consent."


For the full text of the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act and additional documentation, see the section of the NRLC website titled The Pain of the Unborn Child, at

For information on whether your senators and representative have cosponsored the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, and to send e-mails to help pass the bill, visit the NRLC website Legislative Action Center at

You can also contact your two U.S. senators and your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives by calling the Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121. Urge the lawmakers to cosponsor the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (S. 2466, H.R. 4420).