Bioethics Blogs

The Politics of Fetal Pain: Why This Is Not A Legislative Issue

I read with interest the recent
by my colleagues Paul Burcher and Claire Horner entitled “The Politics
of Fetal Pain”. In their blog they discuss the recent
pain bill
passed in Utah, which “requires the use of general anesthesia on women seeking
abortions at 20 weeks gestation or later.” At stake is the concern that fetuses
may be capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks, which has prompted 12 states
to restrict or prohibit abortions from that point on, instead of 24 weeks,
which is the current standard.


Burcher and Horner remind us that the issue of fetal pain has
been a source of contention for
which has led to “several states restricting or
prohibiting abortions
 20 weeks or later on the basis of potential fetal pain.” The
authors are very much aware of the possibility that anti-abortion advocates may
be using this issue as a convenient means by which to place additional limits
on abortion rights of women. Which is to say, anti-abortion advocates
supporting these restrictions on women’s reproductive rights may be using the
fetal pain issue as a means to restrict abortion rights. Even if they do have a
bias in creating this law, Burcher and Horner still believe that the law itself
is justified.


Though I would
share a concern about the possibility of fetal pain, if I had reason to believe
there were evidence to support it, I disagree that the appropriate next move
ethically is to join forces with a legislative agenda of politicians whose
interests go far beyond the issue of fetal pain.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.