A leading neurologist and long-time supporter of the pro-life cause has outlined how, despite the political attempts of pro-abortion advocates to overrun science, the literature clearly demonstrates that the preborn human being can feel pain – and feel it intensely – by the 20-week point in his or her development in the womb.
Dr. Paul Ranalli is a neurologist, lecturer and clinical instructor at the University of Toronto Medical School. He is also an active researcher, frequent writer on life issues and an advisory board member for the deVeber Institute For Bioethics and Social Research, at whose annual general meeting he spoke on Oct. 1 in Toronto on the topic of “A Medical Detective Story: What You Felt Before You Were Born.”
Ranalli began by noting that he initially felt the issue of fetal pain would be irrelevant to the pro-life point of view when it came up years ago. “What I found when I got into it were two things. One is fetal pain can be seen as a marker for the development of humans in the womb in general … The second thing I found was, going into the literature and reading it was surprisingly revelatory. Politics intersects and distorts the science.” Ranalli added the political distortion of the fetal pain issue has extended into outright deception.
Tracing some history, he said there was a time when even newborns were not believed to feel pain and it was common to perform surgery upon them without anesthesia. Although science has come a long way, some still argue that there is no such thing as fetal pain and that it is more of an emotional concept.
Yet, the evidence strongly supports pain being felt at about the mid-point of pregnancy, 20 weeks. “Some very good-hearted people in the pro-life movement try to overplay their hand by talking about pain development as early as eight or nine weeks. It’s simply not true,” Ranalli admonished, noting that during weeks eight to 14, receptors develop all over the body, but there is nothing to hook them to the brain.
But by 17-20 weeks, “the whole system is up and running … (The pain) system pretty well reaches its connected peak at 20 weeks and is in place from that point forward.” Furthermore, there is very strong evidence that pain felt by fetuses, neonates and newborns is even more intense than that felt by full-term babies, children or adults – making abortion an even more ghastly proposition.
“At eight weeks, the fetus begins to make movements in response to being touched … By 20 weeks, the fetus can be observed to respond to sound … So these systems are all up and running by 20 weeks … From 20 weeks, you feel pain and feel it intensely.”
As far as consciousness is concerned, Ranalli said brainwave patterns are “fledgling” at 20-22 weeks’ gestation. From 22 weeks onward, the patterns are just like those of a child or adult.