A reader directed me to this New York Times article, which sent me on a research frenzy. As a lawyer/ethicist, I am out of my league commenting on the state of fetal neuro-science. But I have some observations.
Given what goes on during an abortion procedure, I am quite desperate to believe the American Medical Association when it tells me that fetuses – pardon my Latin – are unable to process a painful stimulus until the third trimester of pregnancy. I find it difficult to do so because:
The topic of fetal pain has received the same polarizing treatment as all other matters of abortion, meaning that whether or not fetuses feel pain now depends on where you stand on the pro-life to pro-abortion continuum. Which is scientifically and academically troubling since:
Brain structures are not political. Either fetuses feel pain and abortion hurts them or fetuses don’t feel pain and abortion doesn’t hurt them. The question is: does it matter? Is the legitimacy of abortion affected by whether or not fetuses feel it? Is abortion wrong because it hurts or is it wrong because it kills? Would those who don’t object to ending fetal life object to causing fetal pain? I wonder.by