House Children and Families Committee Advances Fetal Pain Bill

The Missouri House Committee on Children and Families has advanced HB 1266, sponsored by Rep. Donna Lichtenegger (R-Cape Girardeau), which would outlaw abortion at 20 weeks gestation based upon an unborn fetus’s ability to feel pain. Currently, Missouri law outlaws abortions at 24 weeks, the date fetuses are considered viable.

Whether fetuses are capable of feeling and experiencing pain in utero has been the subject of much debate. However, as technology advances and babies are born earlier and survive, the evidence is mounting that fetuses are able to feel and experience pain after 20 weeks. Professor Colleen Mallory, of the Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, stating “[w]hen procedures such as IV placement or chest tube insertion are performed on neonates at 20 weeks post-fertilization age and above, the response [including changes in vital signs] is similar to those seen in older infants or children.”

Dr. Ferdinand Salvacion, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, has testified previously that “[t]he structures required for pain perception are present in the fetus by 20 weeks gestational age. Based upon the scientific evidence, it is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the capacity to experience pain as early as 20 weeks gestational age, and the pain perceived is possibly more intense than that perceived by mature newborns.”

HB 1266 must be debated on the House floor before being sent to the Senate for consideration. We’ll keep you updated on its progress.