Skip to comments.Foetuses [Fetuses] 'may be conscious long before abortion limit'
Posted on 03/09/2003 4:26:55 PM PST by MadIvan
Foetuses may develop consciousness long before the legal age limit for abortions, one of Britain's leading brain scientists has said.
Baroness Greenfield, a professor of neurology at Oxford University and the director of the Royal Institution, said there was evidence to suggest the conscious mind could develop before 24 weeks, the upper age where terminations are permitted.
Although she fell short of calling for changes in the abortion laws, she urged doctors and society to be cautious when assuming unborn babies lacked consciousness. "Is the foetus conscious? The answer is yes, but up to a point," she said.
"Given that we can't prove consciousness or not, we should be very cautious about being too gung ho and assuming something is not conscious. We should err on the side of caution."
Last year, a Daily Telegraph straw poll found many neurologists were concerned that foetuses could feel pain in the womb before 24 weeks after conception.
Many believed foetuses should be given anaesthetics during a late abortion, after 20 weeks. Some also believe pain relief should be given for keyhole surgery in the womb.
Abortions are allowed up to 24 weeks in Britain, but are rarely given so late. Around 90 per cent of the 175,000 planned terminations that take place each year in England and Wales are in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Around 1.5 per cent - or 2,600 - take place after the 20th week.
Terminations after 24 weeks are only allowed in exceptional circumstances if, for instance, the mother's life is threatened.
Lady Greenfield is sceptical of philosophers and doctors who argue that consciousness is "switched on" at some point during the brain's development.
She believes instead that there is a sliding scale of consciousness and that it develops gradually as neurons, or brain cells, make more and more connections with each other.
She told the British Fertility Society in London last week that she had serious concerns about foetal consciousness.
"The Home Office has legislation that applies to a mammal and they have now extended it to the octopus, a mollusc, because it can learn," she said. "If a mollusc can be attributed with being sentient, and now has Home Office protection, then my own view is that we should be very cautious after making assumptions."
In 2001 a Medical Research Council expert group said unborn babies might feel pain as early as 20 weeks and almost certainly by 24. They called for more sensitive treatment of very premature babies, who often had to undergo painful procedures like heel pricks and injections.
If the child is conscious at 24 weeks, dear God in heaven, the implications regarding the brutality of Partial Birth Abortion are staggering.
Our Leftist enemies are in the service of Satan in wanting to keep this barbaric practice going.
The Partial Birth Abortion Procedure
Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist grabs the baby's leg with forceps.
The baby's leg is pulled out into the birth canal.
The abortionist delivers the baby's entire body, except for the head.
The abortionist jams scissors into the baby's skull. The scissors are then opened to enlarge the hole...
The scissors are removed and a suction catheter is inserted. The child's brains are sucked out, causing the skull to collapse. The dead baby is then removed.
Something to ponder: IT HAPPENS EVERY DAY.
Well said, ping!
Isn't France trying to force their "morality" on both Ireland and Poland as conditions for either remaining in the EU or joining the EU? Supposedly the French are saying that since the former communist government, which was peacfully overthrown, ratified the CEDAW treaty, Poland would be violating that treaty by outlawing abortion.
There is no known case of any mammal that does not breath being conscious. Motion and reactions observed in sleeping human beings (totally unconscious) are much more sophisticated than anything detected in the unborn at any stage. Reactions and movement, in themselves, are not indicators or consciousness. There is absolutely no reason to suppose the unborn have any level of consciousness at all until they, "wake up," that is, begin to breath.
There is no argument here for or against abortion policy of any nature, just a statement about the nature of things as they actually are. There are enough real things to worry about, in this issue as well as others, than to worry about the unborn suffering. They do not.
On the other hand they enjoy killing babies.
September 16, 1985
In the abortion debate many pro-abortion and not-quite-anti-abortion proponents have said the humanity of the fetus is the central question, the central issue, but never define humanity or human being except as something that is sentient, the killing of which would be murder. And? By their own words sentience does not define humanity for cows are sentient and humans may feel no pain if certain nerves are severed.
In the above context, they say the case for first trimester abortions depends upon the experience of pain. Are they saying that denying life is not to be permitted if the experience is painful? For whom? Surely after the fetus is dead it will no longer feel or remember feeling pain. This reminds me of the question of whether one would rather be given a drug before an operation that would prevent pain or be given one later that would erase from the memory the pain experienced during the operation. Such questioning is secondary to the fact of the operation. What will be its result? In the case of abortion the result will be the death of the fetus whether it feels any pain or not. The experience of pain, then, is not bad in itself if its cause brings about a better state of being or prevents a worse one. To grant or deny a fetus (the term here used generically) a future life outside the womb as a sentient human being by its present ability to experience pain seems more than bizarre--"Its okay, you know, it didnt feel a thing because it wasnt sentient." Yeah, which is better, to exist having felt no pain of abortion or to not exist having felt no pain of abortion? To be or not to be, that is the question, isnt it?
Some have said The case against abortion in the first trimester must rest entirely on metaphysics and philosophy. I think the case for or against abortion at any time must rest entirely on metaphysics and philosophy. It appears that for many who wish to have nothing to do with metaphysics and philosophy empirical reasons are what they get when they pass the point at which they are no longer aware of (or have successfully forgotten) their philosophical and metaphysical reasons for selecting them.
The empirical reason appears to rest on cold fact, but the reason for using it rests on something entirely different. Any time one moves from the descriptive of This is to the prescriptive of Do this, one moves through the moral world of This ought or ought not to be. This is the world of motives and beliefs. Its the world in which people actually live. It cannot be described in the same way that physics describes solar flares. This is central to the absurdity of experimental psychologys attempts to explain human behavior by dissecting rat brains and measuring dog spit. There is that in human behavior which is mans distinguishing characteristic which transcends the physical processes of reproduction, nourishment, and death.
When I was about five years old, I was taken to a museum and ushered through the hall enshrining Human Reproduction, The Miracle of Life. On one wall I saw encased specimens (whether potentially human or just clever reproductions, I dont know) arranged developmentally from conception to birth. I started at birth and asked my father if the baby, dying at that stage, would go to heaven. As I approached conception asking the same question, the answers changed from Yes to probably to I dont know to Probably not to No. It gets down to the question of whether being human is something you are or something that you have become. I suspect that something akin to ethnocentrism (ontogenocentrism?) is involved here--those folks running around with bones through their noses arent like us and were civilized, so they probably arent, yet. Some say the fetus is much more actually human after the first 12 weeks of gestation and that it little resembles a human being during the first few weeks of gestation, meaning that it does not look much like, well, a post-birth body. It doesnt look like me and Im human, so it probably isnt, yet.
Its interesting how closely the question of the origin of man as an individual resembles the controversy about the origin of man as a species. Did man come fully human from the hand of God or was there a point at which, during eons-long evolution, the genetics defining the species Sapiens appeared? Was it fully human or was it merely human in appearance? Did there appear at the same time or later those characteristics which could be called spiritual? The first view holds all men of different languages, races, and cultures to be members of a common humanity. The second view makes possible all sorts of interesting self-justification from members of master races, true humans as opposed to sub-humans, for individuals personifying the new socialist man or the master race. And just as that distinction has made possible the genocide of whole groups who fell outside the official classification, so, too, have millions of pre-birth lives been defined into oblivion.
Genetically speaking, there is a time before which an individual of a sexually reproducing species does not exist and after which it does, be it ever so humble. From that moment to the moment of its dissolution it passes through definable stages of development and degeneration. Here are some that apply to us: zygote, embryo, fetus, newborn, infant, toddler, child, pre-adolescent, young adult, mature adult, old-aged. Upon this continuum of development place an asterisk where it becomes human and perhaps another where its humanity ceases as far as the empirical world is concerned. Many would place the asterisks at conception and death (death defined as the irreversible disruption of the continuum). I do. It is this creature appearing at conception and disappearing at death that is human. Against this, talk about seeds not being trees and fertilized eggs not being chickens shows itself for the silly ontogenocentrism that it is-- the full-grown chicken is not a fertilized egg, but both are developmental stages of the same being. An acorn is not a tree, but both are equally oak.
But if human being is just a later stage of that individuals existence, then what is the name for the being started at conception and ended at death? On the individual level, the first view calls it human whether conscious or not, crippled, retarded, senile, diseased, sinful, intelligent, female, or male. The second view permits quality of life and value to society to define the parameters of being human and those who have the power to do so to define those terms, whether a woman and her physician, N.A.R.A.L, or Big Brother.
The bottom line is that there is a struggle between equality under law (metaphysics) and power as the law (empiricism), between doing what we ought and doing whatever we can get away with, between submitting our desires to a higher moral law or enshrining our desires as the only moral law.
One will never find the answers in the charts and tables of science. And for the modern man thats scary.
In the almost 30 years since Roe, this Court has never described the various methods of aborting a second- or third-trimester fetus. From reading the majority's sanitized description, one would think that this case involves state regulation of a widely accepted routine medical procedure. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most widely used method of abortion during this stage of pregnancy is so gruesome that its use can be traumatic even for the physicians and medical staff who perform it. ... And the particular procedure at issue in this case, "partial birth abortion," so closely borders on infanticide that 30 States have attempted to ban it.
I sure didn't. I've got one memory which I can place at an age of 2 years old, but nothing before that.