ABORTION: BILL PROPOSED TO GIVE ANESTHESIA TO FETUSES
Making way for a "provocative new front in the war overThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
abortion," a California state legislator has proposed that
fetuses aborted during the third trimester be given anesthesia,
the Los Angeles Times reports. State Rep. George Runner (R) has
introduced a bill that the Times reports "is expected to spark
emotional debate" about "what a fetus may be capable of feeling -
- and when." Runner said, "These are babies at an age that would
enable them to live if they were born. How can anyone argue that
they should not be protected from pain?" Runner said he was
inspired by a study released in October that showed that "fetuses
may sense pain as early as 26 weeks" because at that time "nerve
connections are established between the cortex and the thalamus
of the developing brain."
Although OB/GYNs agree that fetuses "develop the
neurological equipment to perceive pain at some point during the
third trimester," the Times reports that there is no consensus
over whether fetuses actually experience pain. Dr. Mark Evans,
vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Wayne State
University, said, "It's difficult, and you have to be careful not
to confuse reflex with pain sensation. Just because a spinal
reflex has developed, that doesn't mean it is translated into
pain at the cortical level." The Times reports that "[o]ther
specialists said the proposal has some merit, but cautioned that
issues such as how the analgesic would be delivered to the fetus
would have to be examined."
FIRST IN THE NATION
Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion
Federation, said that as far as she knows, the bill, which she
labeled as an attempt to limit access to abortions, is "a first."
The Times reports that the bill will face an uphill battle in the
Democrat-controlled state Assembly. Kristy Wiese, a lobbyist for
the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said, "There is
a solid pro-choice majority in the Legislature, so while this
will get a lot of attention, it won't get far. Conservatives are
picking this sort of hysteria-generating issue more as a vehicle
to get attention than a vehicle to create public policy."
However, the Times reports that "Runner is already finding
support in the Capitol's circle of antiabortion legislators, who
plan a fresh attempt this year to ban late-term abortions"