Fetal pain Late-term abortion Legislation

NYT on Unborn Child Pain Protection Acts

The NYT ran a front page article today on the passage of laws limiting abortion in recognition that an unborn child feels pain at 20 weeks.
While the article is better than most NYT pieces on abortion as far as trying to be even handed (I know this is faint praise), the reporter omits some important facts.

1) The Times states that the US Supreme Court has recognized viability as occuring at 24 weeks. Actually twenty-two years ago the Court recognized that viability could occur as early as 23 1/2 weeks and that there could be as much as a 4-week error in estimating gestational age. Webster, 492 U.S. at 554.

2) The Times fails to explain that the bills date the pregnany from fertilization, rather than gestation. This means that the limitation begins at 22 gestational weeks, not 20 weeks. The increased protection is for one and a half weeks at most.

3) The article uncritcally quotes an abortion rights advocate that many of the abortions that would be prohibited are currently performed due to medical emergencies. Yet the laws all have life of the mother and health exceptions. Furthermore, we learned in a widely-publicized interview with The New York Times in 1997 with Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, the majority of cases involving abortion after 20 weeks gestation are performed on a healthy mother and healthy fetus.

4) The experience of the Deavers described in the article may have been the result of substandard care. See this analysis by a maternal-fetal health specialist.

Not exactly careful reporting by the Times, but still better than most of their stories on abortion laws.

Teresa Collett

Teresa Stanton Collett is a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches bioethics, property law, and constitutional law. A nationally prominent speaker and scholar, she is active in attempts to rebuild the Culture of Life and protect the institutions of marriage and family. She often represents groups of state legislators, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in appellate case related to medical-legal matters. She represented the governors of Minnesota and North Dakota before the U.S. Supreme Court as amici curiae regarding the effectiveness of those states’ parental involvement laws. She has served as special attorney general for Oklahoma and Kansas related to legislation designed to protect the well-being of minors and unborn children. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittees on the Constitution, as well as numerous legislative committees in the states.