Can a Fetus Feel Pain During an Abortion?
One of the most emotionally fraught issues for women seeking abortions is whether the developing fetus can feel pain. Extremist anti-choicers assert that the answer is an emphatic yes, even as early as 6 weeks into pregnancy. They cite a propaganda video called Silent Scream, which purports to show a fetus attempt to escape an abortion and showing signs of pain. This sort of misinformation traumatizes women, and lends false information to the ongoing debate about abortion. The truth is that there is no evidence that a fetus can feel pain in the first or early second trimester. Abortion clinics that perform very late abortions take measures to prevent late-term fetuses from feeling pain.
Can a fetus feel pain?
It’s not a matter of opinion: in the first trimester, fetuses cannot feel pain because they cannot feel anything. Numerous studies have shown that they lack the sensory and brain structures necessary to feel pain or have any understanding of the world around them.
In the second trimester, sensory structures begin developing such that a developing fetus can hear between 18 and 24 weeks. This isn’t enough for the fetus to feel pain. The earliest evidence that a fetus might feel pain is around 24 weeks–past the legal limit for abortion in most states. Even so, most data suggests pain perception begins around 29 or 30 weeks, and it is an open question whether very preterm newborns are able to feel pain.
All of this means for the majority of women who seek first trimester abortions, there is no risk of fetal pain. Even if you are having a late-term abortion, pain is not a factor unless you are past 24 weeks.
Preventing fetal pain during abortion
If you do elect to have an abortion after 24 weeks, you do not need to worry about causing the baby to suffer. These abortions universally require general anesthesia. That anesthesia passes through the placenta, sedating the fetus and making pain unlikely. Many doctors give additional medication to ensure the fetus feels nothing, and some inject a substance into the fetus’s heart to immediately and painlessly stop it.
This is a gut-wrenching question to consider, but for most women having such late abortions, fetal pain is a major consideration because they are aborting dying babies, or babies who would have suffered immensely upon birth. For them, the well-being of the baby is primary, and a primary motivator for the abortion.
Choosing the right abortion clinic
If you’re considering a late-term abortion or you have questions about fetal pain, choosing the right abortion clinic is key. Quality abortion clinics understand that, for women aborting wanted babies, the baby is very much a human who matters, and they will treat them as such. That includes discussing anesthesia options. They also understand that earlier term abortions do not cause pain to the fetus, and will compassionately answer the woman’s questions while offering reassurance.
Click here for tips to help you find a quality abortion clinic.