Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fetal pain laws

The New York Times ran a story today on new state fetal pain laws banning abortion after 20 weeks.  My colleague Teresa Collett comments here.


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It seems to me Teresa Collett is nit picking. The story is that six states have set up a new criterion for the point after which abortion will be permitted. It is not the criterion laid down by the Supreme Court. It is one that has been invented by the pro-life movement for their own purposes. Also, it's scientific basis is dubious. One point Collett seems to imply is that it's just a small change. Prohibiting abortion at the point where a fetus can allegedly feel pain is only shortly before the point where abortion is prohibited now (viability). But that doesn't make the state laws constitutional.

I have as yet not figured out whether the "fetal pain" criterion was invented on the grounds that a fetus should not be made to suffer, or on the grounds that the point where a fetus can feel pain is also the point where a fetus becomes a human person with rights. If it's the former, then some kind of fetal anesthesia before abortion would solve the problem, so is it the latter?

Posted by: David Nickol | Jun 28, 2011 3:16:46 PM

There's a short piece in today's Chronicle of Higher Ed, critical of the NYT's article's dismissal of the legitimate scientific debate about the question of whether fetus do feel pain: http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/do-fetuses-feel-pain/27805?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Posted by: Lisa Schiltz | Jun 29, 2011 8:44:34 AM