The Politics of Foetal Pain

James Evans

On the 6th of February this year, the Department of Health and Social Care admitted that an unborn baby aged 20-24 weeks gestation receives painkillers prior to surgery in the womb to treat spina bifida.

In a parliamentary question, Sir Edward Leigh MP asked the obvious follow-up question: will it be made “policy to provide pain relief to unborn babies of a similar age undergoing a termination”. The answer from the Department of Health? No.

Picking up on the contradiction, Fiona Bruce MP asked why there was this variance in clinical practice. Why did babies at 20-26 weeks undergoing spinal surgery receive painkillers, but babies at the same age undergoing termination receive no painkillers? The answer from the Department of Health? Not our job; no.

So whose job is it? Ms Bruce asked. The answer from the Department of Health? It may as well have been white noise.

In the meantime, while the Department of Health avoids it’s responsibilities, around ten mothers a day continue to proceed with a very late term abortion under the assurance that their baby will feel no pain and so does not need painkiller. Yet in the same hospitals, mothers with babies of the same age are assured that their baby will feel no pain because a painkiller will be administered.

This political avoidance has been happening since the late 1980s when the then MP, David Alton, raised the issue in parliament. It was only following the inquiry into foetal sentience that the RCOG formed a working party who published their paper in 1997. They recommended that consultants should consider the need the use of painkillers only for diagnostic or therapeutic procedures on foetuses in utero. Since then, in 2018 alone, 3602 women underwent an abortion at 20 weeks or later without the use of foetal painkiller; many of these will be following the diagnosis of a disability.

Many of these late term abortions will have been a D&E procedure in which, according to RCOG, the ‘fetus is removed in fragments’. In third trimester abortions, babies receive an injection of potassium chloride to effectively induce a heart attack – it can take minutes to several hours to work according to abortion provider BPAS.

Why is there this discrepancy? Why do we provide painkillers for an infant about to undergo spinal surgery in the womb but do not do the same for an infant about to lose his/her life through abortion? Perhaps it is because over time many Obstetrician and Gynaecologist consultants who conscientiously object to abortion have migrated to other medical fields, resulting in a group of polarised mindset without dissenters.

Or, most obviously, perhaps it is because to provide painkillers to a child that is about to have his or her life ended would bring home the reality of what’s going on. It would have a deeply humanising effect on the unborn child, and this is something that abortion supporters are keen to avoid. It would be to acknowledge that there is another human being here who is hurt by abortion. And to admit this might help cause the whole abortion edifice to collapse.

(Photo credit Adobe Stock:MoiraM)

UK mother told to have abortion 10 times after baby found to have disability

A woman from Liverpool, Natalie Halson, was offered an abortion 10 times when she was pregnant with her daughter, Mirabelle, who was diagnosed in the as having spina bifida.

At every appointment, right up until the birth of her daughter, Natalie was repeatedly asked if she would like to abort her baby. Not knowing why the doctors kept doing so, Natalie eventually found out about her daughter’s medical condition which meant that part of her spine and spinal cord had not developed properly. This can cause paralysis of the legs, bowel or urinary incontinence, and even brain damage.

“I found out as much as I could and realised that there were options, I refused to give up on my baby but the medics just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“It was so insistent even after I’d repeatedly said no but it was getting offered a termination just weeks before she was born that really upset me.

The doctors implied “an abortion was [her] only option and explained that if [she] went ahead with the pregnancy [her] baby would be wheelchair bound and have no quality of life.”

It was only after Mirabelle’s mother was able to do the research that she discovered that life for her daughter was not over, admitting that “If I’d not had that time to do my research I might have even agreed to the termination.”

Mirabelle was eventually born via an emergency C-section at Liverpool Women’s Hospital at 38 weeks, but was immediately taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for a spinal operation.

“They operated on Mirabelle’s spine the day after she was born, it was a horrible anxious wait as it lasted about 12 hours, but the doctors were really happy with her progress afterwards.

After a month of visiting the newborn in hospital, she was finally allowed to take Mirabelle home. It seems likely that her daughter will have a normal life

“I would recommend to any parents who are advised to abort that it isn’t the only option, no matter what the hospitals try and tell them.” Natalie said

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK said:

“This is a wonderful outcome to what could have been a very sad story. It is deeply disappointing that Natalie’s doctors’ first – and apparently only – ‘solution’ to a diagnosis of spina bifida was abortion.”

“The discrimination towards children with disabilities on display here is appalling. All children, disabled or not, deserve a chance at life and it is a gross failure of professional responsibility for the doctors in this case to push abortion in a situation where it is not required or desired.”

“The attitude of the doctors in this case is particularly inexcusable given the recent advances in medical technology. In May this year, for example, doctors performed corrective spinal surgery on a child who was still in the womb. Whilst this may not have been appropriate here, the very fact that Mirabelle is now healthy after her operation proves that there was life changing medical care available to her, rather than abortion.”