Fetal Pain: OK, What’s the Point?

Pastor Robert Fleischmann, CLR National Director


Researchers claim they found a dramatic rise in fetal stress hormones when they inserted a needle into fetuses for blood transfusions.

Already I hear some of my peers exclaiming, “I told you so!” The concept of fetal pain during the abortion process was introduced some time ago with Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s video Silent Scream. Using ultrasound and some narration Nathanson confronted viewers with the distinct possibility that not only is a child being aborted but that the child might be feeling the process.

And now the temptation arises to substantiate the fetal pain argument with this new evidence. Despite the fact that researchers failed to gather data on whether babies feel pain during the first trimester, when most abortions occur, there is strong evidence to suggest that something is felt.

Yet, as can be expected, there are already those who deny the claims of fetal pain. Experts argue that such chemical reactions don’t necessarily indicate a sensation of pain. Maria Fitzgerald, considered to be an expert in fetal and infant pain, says, ” I think their (the unborns’) nervous system is capable of reaction to painful stimuli, but I think perception builds up with experiences and memory and consciousness and that really comes in post-natal life.”

But let’s say that the unborn, from the moment of conception, experiences excruciating pain during an abortion. So what? Does it somehow become more wrong? Is it now necessary that we more quickly move to end abortion? Absolutely not! Let me explain:

When Joseph was a servant in Potiphar’s house he became the object of lust for Potiphar’s wife. When she made a pass at him he responded, “How can I do such a thing and sin against God?” In review of that story for an Adult Information Class I was conducting, I realized that there were many compelling reasons for Joseph to stay away from Potiphar’s wife.

Had Joseph succumbed to the temptation, he stood the possibility of being caught and possibly losing his life. He stood to be the harmful element in the breakup of Potiphar’s marriage. How could he have continued being a servant after having given in to such temptation? There were many other very good reasons why Joseph should not have given in to Potiphar’s wife- but none of them are mentioned. Only one reason counts- God would not like it.

Now, as I think about the issue of fetal pain, I think I know where it will go. The pro-abortion camp will continue to deny it, and the pro-life camp will now adorn their rhetoric on abortion with such new adjectives as “cruel, torturous, agonizing, inhumane” to illustrate killing sentient people in the womb. But I fear it is indicative of our missing the point.

The correctness or error of abortion and the need for us to do something has nothing to do with fetal pain. Abortion, as it is practiced today, is wrong because God says it’s wrong. It is a sad commentary that people often are not moved to action until they see the graphic pictures of unborn baby parts in the aftermath of an abortion. Why do we think it is time to do something?

It is sinful to take the life of an unborn child for reasons of convenience, quality, or personal interest. It is also sinful to allow sin to go on unchecked. That objective fact already gives cause to do something, whether hearing a dying scream, or witnessing the dismemberment. And then, to see a Savior dying and being raised to life for each of us that we might have life forever in heaven, should be all the cause we ever need to do something.

Abortion is wrong! It has nothing to do with when the heart beats, when the brain senses pain, or whether the child is able to live independently outside the womb. Even in the embryonic stage, the child does not have to look like a child to be deserving of our time, attention, and assistance.

Perhaps we would all do well to ask ourselves a question similar to Joseph’s: “How can I sit by and let the killing go on and thereby sin against God?” Fetal pain may just be one more indication that there is something horribly wrong with a society that kills its children, but our reason for action should be based upon God’s Word and not upon secular reasoning, no matter how persuasive it may be. What are you waiting for?

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