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Reader's View: Compassion needed for pain-capable unborn

The April 29 letter, "A 20-week abortion ban has to be opposed," criticized federal legislation to protect unborn children after 20 weeks, when substantial scientific evidence indicates they can experience pain. The criticisms of this important measure were way off the mark.

The letter stated the vast majority of abortions happen before 20 weeks. True, but thousands of unborn children are still killed each year (nationwide) after that point, often via a dismemberment procedure. Those lives matter — and so does their suffering.

The letter also said that "neurological function necessary to perceive pain does not occur until 29 to 30 weeks." This view had to have been based on the idea that a functioning cerebral cortex is needed for pain perception. That idea is contradicted by multiple lines of evidence.

"Neurological findings indicate that 'mature' pain perception is largely localized to the thalamus," testified neurobiologist Dr. Maureen Condic before Congress. "The spino-thalamic circuits required for pain perception are established between 12-18 weeks post(-conception)."

The claim that "abortions after 20 weeks almost always happen when something has gone terribly wrong" was false. Even a study published by the Guttmacher Institute, which opposes limits on abortion, found that "data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment." Most of the abortions we're talking about are purely elective.

Yes, many late abortions do involve difficult cases. But human beings diagnosed in utero with serious diseases or disabilities should be treated with dignity and respect. In tragic situations like the one recounted in the letter (a terminal diagnosis), perinatal hospice is a loving alternative to intentional killing.

Tearing off arms and legs and crushing the skulls of pain-capable unborn children is not, as the letter absurdly claimed, "health care." It's barbarism. A just and compassionate society has to be better than this.

Paul Stark

Minneapolis

The writer is a communications associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (mccl.org).