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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pain-Capable Abortion Bans with Exceptions are Not Pro-Life Bills bySarah St. Onge

Last week the South Carolina House voted to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks post-conception based on the strong likelihood of pain on the part of the unborn child. The law was passed without rape, incest, or fetal anomaly restrictions- a monumental achievement given the status of our current "pro-life" belief system in this country.

There is a possibility that this South Carolina legislation could pass into law- questionable is whether it will pass without those exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly. Governor Nikki Haley has expressed her support, promising to sign the bill into legislation as is, should it make it to her desk. Unfortunately supporting "no exceptions" abortion prohibitions is something that many politicians see as a political kiss of death, and many are afraid to openly do so. The few brave souls who do openly support no compromise legislation rarely offer a strong defense for their position- more often stumbling in their efforts when questioned or criticized. It remains to be seen whether the SC Senate will actually leave this an authentically pro-life law, or add those exceptions into the bill.

In addition to the bill in South Carolina, there are ten states which already have pain-capable abortion bans on the books. In addition there are other pain-capable bills presently working their way through state legislatures. For example, Ohio and Virginia are currently working on amending abortion laws to protect their most vulnerable citizens. Almost all manifestations of these laws are facing debate over exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly. Problematic in this is the nature of what the bill is trying to accomplish -- ending abortion after the point where an unborn child most likely begins to feel pain.

There is one item which seems to be ignored by those supporting these exemptions, including some pro-life supporters:

Abortion laws in which exceptions exist codify discrimination

As the mother of a child born with lethal birth defect, and who did not live for very long after birth, I feel that my personal experience offers me a deeper understanding of what these laws mean. Whether an unborn child can feel pain is not an abstract concept to be fought out as political philosophy nor should it be a power maneuver by institutional trade unions (ie. ACOG) whose monopoly on women's health issues is coming to an end. It is a real question with which families will struggle when making decisions about facing an exceptional pregnancy. Babies like my daughter are purposely excluded from laws meant to protect unborn children from excruciating pain -- for no fault of their own, but rather because of society’s perception of what it means to continue a pregnancy after receiving a poor diagnosis.

There have been numerous studies, which seem to definitively prove that an unborn child can feel pain. Some studies indicate that a child at 20 weeks post-conception feels pain more acutely than a post-birth baby.

The question is, if this is the case -- why would exceptions be acceptable to anyone, especially the pro-life person?

Why is it acceptable to close our eyes to the possibility of such excruciating pain on the part of an unborn child, solely based on the events surrounding their conception or their perceived disability or life expectancy? Is there some physiological difference between babies conceived during rape and those who were not, which causes the unborn child of rape to feel pain less acutely? We know for certain that many infants with cephalic issues have active pain responses even when portions of their brains are damaged or even missing. There is no evidence that babies with anomalies feel less pain then congenitally intact infants.

The South Carolina House has taken a stand and delivered a truly pro-life piece of legislation which is a model for all other pro-life legislatures. It is also a model of what pro-life actually means for the rest of us. The understanding that pro-life means pro-all-life is something which needs to be addressed more specifically.

The majority of Americans support pain-capable abortion restrictions. Most likely a politician passing pro-life legislation was elected in part because of their life-affirming position and not through the votes of their pro-choice constituency. Yet exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal anomaly are regularly included in pro-life legislation. This is one of the most troubling aspects of this issue -- that these politicians supporting these laws are "pro-life" politicians. They represent pro-life persons when they vote. They represent you.

It is incumbent upon us to begin elucidating our positions from a logical standpoint -- if we are to support pain-capable legislation, then we need to support it for every baby, not just those who were conceived in optimal circumstances. If we create a dynamic where delegating negative value to certain groups of people is acceptable, then babies like my daughter are going to be the recipients. Unborn children will continue to be relegated a place in a strange hierarchy which assumes a pro-life title, but is discriminatory and anything but pro-life.

BIO:  Sarah St. Onge is a wife, mother of 4, step-mother of 2, and pro-life blogger for Save The 1.   She blogs on grief, loss, and pro-life issues pertaining to continuing a pregnancy after a lethal anomaly has been diagnosed, at