Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Babies feel pain before the 24 week abortion limit

from here (daily Telegraph)

Babies in the womb can feel pain from an early stage of development, according to research by the world's leading expert on foetal pain.

Prof Sunny Anand of the University of Arkansas will present his report into foetal pain to MPs discussing changes to abortion law on Monday night.

His research concludes that the part of a baby's brain that can feel pain develops before the legal abortion limit of 24 weeks.

It is the first time the abortion laws will have been reviewed in the Commons for nearly two decades.

Prof Stewart Campbell is also on the panel. He pioneered the use of 4D screening, which produces striking images of a baby in the womb.

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative backbencher and former nurse, will chair the meeting.

She wants to introduce an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that proposes lowering the abortion limit. The Bill comes back before the Lords on Monday night.

The Bill goes to the Commons soon after the Easter recess, when MPs will vote on the abortion laws for the first time since the upper limit was reduced from 28 weeks in 1990.

Last year, MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee investigated whether the upper limit should be reduced.

They ruled there was no scientific basis for a change in the law, but pro-life MPs attacked the recommendations.

Mrs Dorries and another Tory MP brought out a minority report that advocated cutting the time limit and tightening the law.

Mrs Dorries said: "It is no secret that I was extremely unhappy with the Science and Technology Committee report into reducing the upper time limit, not least because the overwhelming majority of people called to give evidence were from the pro-abortion lobby and pro-abortion MPs on the committee influenced the outcome of the report.

"A minority report was produced in which I highlighted my concerns. However, MPs who wish to facilitate easier access to abortion will use the main report to influence the opinion of other MPs during the debate.

"The purpose of the discussion is to give people like Prof Anand, whose research was disregarded by the committee, a platform from which they can present the other side of the argument to MPs, the press, and the rest of society, including the 72 per cent of the general public who agree that 24 weeks is too late."

The Bill is already causing a dilemma for several Catholic Cabinet ministers, at least one of whom has privately spoken to Geoff Hoon, the Chief Whip, to lobby for a free vote.

Ruth Kelly the Transport Secretary, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, and Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary, are among those who insist the ethical issues raised in the Bill mean it cannot be treated as a party political matter.

Among the aspects they are uncomfortable with are plans to permit the creation of human/animal embryos for research and proposals which would allow IVF babies to be born without a legal father.

Government legislation is usually subject to a strict party whip, meaning members of the Government who vote against the official line are open to disciplinary action.

Mr Hoon is said to be considering a compromise by allowing Catholic MPs to take a leave of absence from the Commons during controversial votes.

A friend of Ms Kelly told The Observer: "He told her that MPs who had difficulties with their conscience should just not be around when the voting took place."


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