Wednesday, April 14

New Abortion Law in Nebraska

I'm curious to see how a new bill in Nebraska plays out--particularly how they choose to challenge the legality of the measure.

I'm sure that someone (ACLU, PP,etc) will challenge the new law, the question is really about tactics.

While I do NOT support this bill, I think that it represents a shift in thinking on the part of anti-choice advocates. Usually anti-choice legislation tries to shame women into continuing the pregnancy or make it financially impossible (forced waiting periods, ultrasound requirements etc). The idea behind most of these measures is that women don't know what's best, and it's up to the paternalistic government to save them from making a decision they might later regret.

The new bill, however, would "[ban] most abortions 20 weeks after conception or later on the theory that a fetus, by that stage in pregnancy, has the capacity to feel pain."

I have 2 (main) problems with this law:

1. I do not believe that the government has to the right determine if and when a woman can have an abortion. So I can't think of very few situations in which I would support a measure that limits choice. My particular problem with this particular bill, however, has to do with:

2. Science! I think that this law relies upon faulty science, and is a rather transparent attempt to (yet again) to curtail reproductive choice using pseudo scientific claims. As a public health student in the Population, Family and Reproductive Health dept. @ a great school, I've learned that we are still learning about fetal development..but what we do know now, does not support the claim that a fetus can feel pain.

For example: Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that babies born before 30 weeks’ gestation lack “functional pain perception.” That’s one indicator, they suggested, that “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”
According to another researcher: "The brain circuitry for processing pain seems to be complete by 26 weeks’ gestation, he wrote. But true pain requires not only development of the brain but also development of the mind to accommodate the subjectivity of pain."

While one or two studies can not provide definitive proof either way, I think that the Nebraska bill is disregarding clear evidence that contradicts their basic premise.

Also, both of my concerns about this law totally disregard an important aspect of reproductive health decisions in this country--we currently make it very difficult for women to make family planning decisions. If we were to provide better information, and easier/cheaper access to contraceptive methods then abortions would not be needed as often.

Even in the current climate, most abortions occur before 20 weeks gestation and those that do occur in the later time period often happen in the context of a fetal anomaly or complication. In some ways this measure just adds a painful and unnecessary burden to women and families who have to terminate a pregnancy due to a serious problem. This bill will only cause pain to women who may already feel deeply tortured by a painful but necessary decision.