An MP has called on the Government to require pain relief for all babies undergoing medical procedures in the womb from at least twelve weeks’ gestation – including abortion.
Carla Lockhart MP has launched a parliamentary motion in the light of the evidence that unborn babies may feel pain at this stage of life.
So far, a total of 25 MPs from the SNP, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and DUP have given their support to the ‘Fetal Pain’ Early Day Motion (EDM).
Time to review
The EDM welcomed the report on “Foetal Sentience and Pain: An Evidence Review”, which was commissioned by the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (APPPG) and published in March 2020.
During the preparation of the report, a paper appeared in the Journal of Medical Ethics which presented “good evidence” that unborn babies feel pain well before the standard 24-week abortion limit.
the evidence points towards unborn babies’ capacity to feel pain emerging at around twelve weeks
Setting out the neuroscientific and psychological arguments around fetal pain, Dr Stuart Derbyshire and his co-author Dr John Bockmann said that the evidence points towards unborn babies’ capacity to feel pain emerging at around twelve weeks and increasing as the nervous system develops.
In the light of this evidence, Christian MP Fiona Bruce said: “Given developing views and research on foetal pain, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidance on this issue in relation to abortion – which is now nearly ten years old – should be reviewed.”
But now Lockhart’s motion asks the Government to “review its official guidance on fetal pain”.
the killing of protected animals from two-thirds of gestation is subject to tighter legal regulation than unborn humans
The text of the EDM states that it “regrets the inconsistency in NHS practice that recommends pain relief for spina bifida surgery from 20 weeks’ gestation but not for abortion at the same gestation”.
It also notes that “the killing of protected animals from two-thirds of gestation is subject to tighter legal regulation than unborn humans being aborted from the same stage of development”.
In conclusion, the motion calls on the Government to require that “pain relief be provided from at least 12 weeks’ gestation for all invasive medical procedures involving babies in the womb, including abortion”.
Abortion is currently legal in the UK up to 24 weeks, or up to birth in cases of severe disabilities.
However, babies with treatable conditions – including cleft palate and club foot – are routinely aborted under this law.
Despite the evidence, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidance currently advises medics to tell parents that a baby “does not experience pain” during an abortion prior to 24 weeks’ gestation.