Nebraska's New Abortion Law: An Emotional Misnomer


julie marsh
Photo by Aimee Giese
Let's make one thing clear right now: I'm pro-choice. I was pro-choice when I was an unmarried, childless registered Republican, and I'm pro-choice now as a married mother of three and registered Independent.

So it should be no surprise that I don't support Nebraska's new law banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

But that's not to say that the prospect of such abortions doesn't bother me. Because it does. A lot.

Nebraska's law is titled "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," and the justification behind it is the assertion that by week 20, the fetal nervous system has developed the capacity to sense pain. According to ABC News, "Medical experts testified at the Nebraska hearings that a fetus is able to feel pain at 20 weeks," and Mary Spaulding Balch of the National Right to Life Committee stated: "Doctors performing fetal surgery at and after 20 weeks now routinely use fetal anesthesia."

But a Journal of the American Medical Association review cited different reasons for the use of fetal anesthesia: "Administration of anesthesia and analgesia serves purposes unrelated to reduction of fetal pain, including inhibition of fetal movement, prevention of fetal hormonal stress responses, and induction of uterine atony." In simple terms, anesthesia is used to stabilize the fetus and facilitate procedures, not to prevent the fetus from feeling pain.

The same JAMA review concludes that: "Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester."

Interestingly, the JAMA review was commissioned in 2005 because of proposed legislation "that would require doctors to counsel women seeking abortions about fetal pain." In spite of conclusions that fetal anatomical and physiological development -- specifically, thalomocortical pathways that only begin to develop between 23-30 weeks gestation -- likely precludes the sensation of pain, six states require counseling on fetal pain and three others "include information on fetal pain in their counseling materials."

I'm a mom. I can't stand the thought of any child, my own or someone else's, born or unborn, being in pain. These arguments are a shot to the heart of nearly any parent.

And that's exactly what they're supposed to be. Such justifications for laws meant to restrict or reduce abortions are based in emotion, not scientific evidence. "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" is a misnomer intended to thwart opposition by its very name.


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JBamb... JBamberger

I'm with you on this one. I can't believe the way they have named this law. I also can't believe that this appears to very specifically ignore situations like the one Uppercase Woman found herself in several years ago with severe preclampsia. If a woman in her situation was subject to this law today, I shudder because that woman would probably not survive herself.

nonmember avatar a_mom

I had to terminate a much wanted pregnancy because it was the best decision for my whole family--not just me, or the baby is was carrying. Protesters yelling at me to "keep my baby" didn't change my mind (I already wanted to keep my baby). Knowing my baby would feel pain wouldn't have changed my mind (dying seemed bad enough). These kinds of laws only make bad, scary, difficult situations even worse. They don't prevent them from happening.

lovin... lovinangels

i'm prolife. score one for my team.

Pundi... PunditMom

But lovinangels, is it really one for your "team" if the law endangers the life of the mother? If you knew that being forced to go through childbirth would cause the death of a loved one -- your sister or a friend -- would you still say the same thing?

lovin... lovinangels

Hah! a chink in my armor! j/k... Seriously, when you get into the rape/health portion of the debate, i'm torn. If a pregnant woman is murdered, we mourn the loss of both mother and child. If a woman does not want to be pregnant, we abort the "fetus." A LOT.
There's a good lady on here that says she is prochoice with respect to the Hyde ammendment. I guess in my older age, I'm leaning that way, but I can see both sides of that argument. So that's my nonintellectual ramblings on the matter. Babies are not trash to be thrown away. Abortions should be seen as a last ditch medical procedure, not something that's not a bid deal.

29again 29again

I agree with lovinangels, abortion should be the absolute last resort. But with the easy access, the free take-a-taxi-on-us use of abortion today, it is so not the last resort. It is more and more often the first option, being used as a form of birth control. I don't understand how it is OK to have an abortion, yet if that same woman is murdered while pregnant, her murderer can be charged with 2 murders. I for one am glad that Wisconsin has passed this law.

Jenny... JennyErikson

I'm thinking that something with human DNA that squirms away from a knife trying to cut it is a person worthy of not being killed. Whether or not they feel pain. But that's just me.

Stacy119 Stacy119

None of our business.

Cenchan Cenchan

I agree with JennyErikson. Ultrasounds of abortions even under 20 weeks, the child tries to get away from the tools -- that's proof enough for me it's a person.

Of course, I'm mainly against Margaret Sanger and her underhanded purpose for mainstreaming abortions. What? You didn't know she was a true-blue racist who was for eliminating the black population through eugenics? Oh. Well, looks like the cat's out of the bag.

nonmember avatar Rose

I would die for my child, before or after birth. Didn't realize this until later in my life when I gave birth. Unfortunately I had issues with drugs at lowest-point in my life, got pregnant and listened to everyone except my true inner voice and aborted; scared because something wrong with the baby and I couldn't afford a baby and the father did want the baby and blah blah blah. I have since had another pregnancy and gave birth to the absolutely most life-changing miracle that I have ever had. I believe to this day that if I had not had the choice to make then, I would've had a miracle sooner than later. Abortion is just plain wrong and evil.

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