Unborn babies may feel pain from 12 weeks, says pro-abortion researcher

There is “good evidence” unborn babies feel pain well before the 24-week abortion limit, according to new scientific research.

The paper, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, comes from a pro-abortion scientist who has worked for US abortion giant Planned Parenthood and the Pro-Choice Forum.

Dr Stuart Derbyshire, the lead researcher, wrote in 2006 that “foetuses cannot experience pain”, but now acknowledges there is “good evidence” they can.

Pain relief

Setting out the neuroscientific and psychological arguments around fetal pain, Dr 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.

The scientists did not make a case for lowering the abortion limit.

However they did say it is “reasonable” that women and medical staff should consider providing pain relief for the baby.


Having set out the evidence, Derbyshire and Bockmann wrote that it would ‘flirt with moral recklessness’ to ignore it.

But Clare Murphy of UK commercial abortionists BPAS rejected the scientific findings and said it would not “lead to a change in practice”.

BPAS charges £1,510 for surgical abortions between 19 and 24 weeks.

The vast majority of abortions are paid for by the NHS.


Lord Alton of Liverpool said: “This new evidence adds further pressure on Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit”.

Christian MP Fiona Bruce commented: “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.”

More than 42 million abortions took place worldwide last year, making it the single largest cause of death in 2019.

Cleft palate

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 have been aborted under this law.

In France abortion is allowed after twelve weeks only if it is deemed there would otherwise be a serious impact on the mother’s health, or if the child is diagnosed with an “incurable” condition.

In Italy, abortions are permitted after 90 days only if there are serious implications for the mother’s health.

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