A bill on Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was passed in USA which would prevent abortion after 20 weeks of conception. Where many Republican members claimed that scientific research shows that 20-week-old fetus can feel pain, there are also research that shows that pain in the developing fetus is essentially impossible to pin down, and that definitive claims regarding pain perception at 20 weeks are unfounded.

A research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 consisting experts from the University of California, San Francisco, and elsewhere, says “Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” The third trimester begins at 27-28 weeks of conception.

Another report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom says “In reviewing the neuroanatomical and physiological evidence in the fetus, it was apparent that connections from the periphery to the cortex are not intact before 24 weeks of gestation and, as most neuroscientists believe that the cortex is necessary for pain perception, it can be concluded that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior to this gestation.”

Martin Platt, who is an honorary and clinical reader in neonatal and pediatric medicine at Newcastle University in the U.K. has critical arguments against early fetal pain. He said that “it is now clearly recognized that infants and preterm babies process pain through different structures than adults, so ‘adult based’ arguments are not relevant.” He also added that, “we are no closer to defining a gestational age below which” pain might not be felt.

The question that does a fetus feel pain at 20 weeks is a complex question. The research used to support for argument is mostly taken from research where too much reliance on neuroscience, too much reference to animal work, and too little real-world human investigation on which the researches base a realistic view. So far, most of the scientific research prove that fetus at 20 weeks does not feel pain.


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