Sunday, 27 June 2010

'The First Ache'


'You're a pro-lifer yeah?’ he croaked, a white page shaking in his hands. He pushed past me and my friend as we stood on the pavement outside an abortion clinic.
‘Here’s something for you!’ he said as he pasted his white piece of paper to the railings of the clinic. ‘You need to see the other side of the story! Here's the BBC report on why foetuses don’t feel pain!' he said. There was something about his manner that suggested he had been crying. And he couldn’t look at the building. His eyes trailed the ground while his chin was on his chest. He was young enough, but his posture was that of a much older person.
‘Would you have the grace to talk to us, and see how we help women?’ said my friend. I showed him ‘the blue leaflet’ with the sketches of the foetuses, and his breathing became very erratic and he visibly shook when he beheld the sketches. Is it entirely a normal reaction to shake that much when you see a mere sketch of an unborn child?
The sheet from the Beeb that he pasted up stated, ‘there is no new evidence to show foetuses feel pain in the womb before 24 weeks, and so no reason to challenge the abortion limit, UK doctors say.’ But is that all there is to it? Just because there is ‘no new evidence’ does not mean that there’s no evidence. The biased Beeb quoted a lot of hard, campaigning pro-abortionists, but not once did the BBC quote medical experts who from their vast experience hold that babies before 24 feel pain.  
And are there medical experts who propound that foetuses feel pain when they are 18 weeks in the womb?
A few years ago, The New York Times previously published a controversial article detailing the work of Dr. Nicholas Fisk concerning the issue of foetal pain before 24 weeks, while the article is couched in very pro-abortion jargon; Dr. Fisk’s work is well detailed.
 ‘For years, he [Dr. Nicholas Fisk] says, “I would be doing a procedure to a fetus, and the mother would ask me, ‘Does my baby feel pain?’ The traditional, knee-jerk reaction was, ‘No, of course not.’ ” But research in Fisk’s laboratory (then at Imperial College in London) was making him uneasy about that answer. It showed that fetuses as young as 18 weeks react to an invasive procedure with a spike in stress hormones and a shunting of blood flow toward the brain — a strategy, also seen in infants and adults, to protect a vital organ from threat. Then Fisk carried out a study that closely resembled Anand’s pioneering research, using fetuses rather than newborns as his subjects. He selected 45 fetuses that required a potentially painful blood transfusion, giving one-third of them an injection of the potent painkiller fentanyl. As with Anand’s experiments, the results were striking: in fetuses that received the analgesic, the production of stress hormones was halved, and the pattern of blood flow remained normal.
Fisk says he believes that his findings provide suggestive evidence of fetal pain — perhaps the best evidence we’ll get. Pain, he notes, is a subjective phenomenon; in adults and older children, doctors measure it by asking patients to describe what they feel. (“On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your current level of pain?”) To be certain that his fetal patients feel pain, Fisk says, “I would need one of them to come up to me at the age of 6 or 7 and say, ‘Excuse me, Doctor, that bloody hurt, what you did to me!’ ” In the absence of such first-person testimony, he concludes, it’s “better to err on the safe side” and assume that the fetus can feel pain starting around 20 to 24 weeks.’
On the young man's sweat stained white sheet, the BBC also reported ‘it [the report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists] found that nerve connections in the cortex, the area which processes responses to pain in the brain, does not form properly before 24 weeks.’  Other experts believe that this may not preclude a foetus younger than 24 weeks from feeling pain…
But Dr. Anand who was been interviewed extensively by Channel 4, and The New York Times has something else to say on the matter,  ‘Anand acknowledges that the cerebral cortex is not fully developed in the fetus until late in gestation. What is up and running, he points out, is a structure called the subplate zone, which some scientists believe may be capable of processing pain signals. A kind of holding station for developing nerve cells, which eventually melds into the mature brain, the subplate zone becomes operational at about 17 weeks. The fetus’s undeveloped state, in other words, may not preclude it from feeling pain. In fact, its immature physiology may well make it more sensitive to pain, not less: the body’s mechanisms for inhibiting pain and making it more bearable do not become active until after birth.’
PS – Returning to the young man with-the-sheet-from-the-BBC; he was not the first to rudely opine that foetuses don’t feel pain. Other people walking by our vigil outside the clinic, very angrily said that that morning The Guardian reported that foetuses don’t feel pain. And all of them want desperately to believe this. They linger over the BBC and Guardian reports that only quote reports suggesting that foetuses don’t feel pain because it helps them feel better about abortion.


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