According to a study released in the U.K., the human fetus feels no pain before 24 weeks gestation.
"The connections in the fetal brain are not fully formed in that time, nor is the foetus conscious," according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The new study is significant mostly because it suggests that abortion at 24 weeks of pregnancy, currently highly controversial, may not do the things pro-lifers claim -- cause immense pain and suffering.
I am pro-choice. I have always been pro-choice. I will always be pro-choice. I am not, however, "pro-abortion." I don't think anyone is.
I was raised in a family where I attended marches on Washington to support abortion rights before I was even in junior high. Even with all these facts, I can remember reaching the 24-week mark in my first pregnancy.
It was early fall and my husband and I were in NYC visiting my very close friend. She and I were walking through Central Park and laughing as the baby kicked and danced inside my belly. Occasionally she would feel and then sometimes I would feel and then it dawned on us that this "baby" that we were interacting with was actually a 24-week-old fetus. And that I would still legally be allowed to terminate the pregnancy.
Both of us looked at my swollen pregnant belly, and we wondered how that was even possible.
Of course, I know the statistics. I know that most people seeking abortions at that stage in pregnancy are doing so because of grave health concerns. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 1.5 percent of the roughly 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States in 2006 were after 22 weeks.
Still, anyone who has been pregnant that long knows how connected one is at that point and how devastating it likely is to anyone who has to make that decision.
I am certainly not advocating for either side. That is what choice is all about. Even someone who grew up as pro-choice as they come (me) was sobered by the thought of abortion once I had my own pregnancy.
But these are tough, tough decisions, and if this study makes it a little easier for someone who had to make this devastating decision, then I hope it helps ease that burden.
Did your feeling on abortion change after you became pregnant?
Image via Daquella manera/Flickr