Abortion regulator, RCOG, looks into foetal pain… but who looks into them?

James Evans

For months we have been aware of the discriminatory disparity in patient care: that unborn babies aged 20-24 weeks gestation undergoing spina bifida surgery receive foetal painkillers, but that babies of the same age being aborted are not given painkillers. 

MPs have been lobbying the Department of Health and Social Care who have finally raised the issue of the use of foetal painkillers in late term abortions with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). 

This would be welcome news because one would assume that the RCOG would recommend that all babies from a gestational age of 20 weeks onwards would receive painkillers prior to any invasive procedure.

However, RCOG’s track record suggests otherwise.

When they were first asked by the Department of Health to investigate foetal pain in 1997, they concluded that consultants should consider the need for the use of painkillers for ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’ on foetuses in utero. Indeed, the Department of Health admitted that foetal painkillers are used in cases of in utero surgery from 20 weeks gestation. But what about in cases of abortion? If an unborn child needs painkillers for ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’, surely they need them all the more in an abortion? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the RCOG omitted to raise or answer these awkward questions.

To do so would risk humanising the unborn baby our society has worked so hard to dehumanise, at least when it comes to abortion. This is why we witness this curious doublethink whereby unborn babies in need of ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’ are given painkillers, but babies to be aborted are not. In the former case, the baby is (presumably) wanted, and therefore acknowledged to be a baby capable of feeling pain and entitled to pain relief. In the latter, the unwanted baby, destined to be aborted, amazingly enough, can feel no pain (according to RCOG at least).

How do we know that the baby destined to be aborted can feel no pain? Well, in 2010, the RCOG looked into this question confidently announcing that before a 24 week abortion,   “No, the fetus does not experience pain”.

In fact, the RCOG go even further than this. In their 2010 Guidelines on Fetal Awareness they assert that the unborn baby is in an unconscious state and does not reach consciousness until birth. This conclusion is based on, in the words of RCOG 2010 ‘good’, ‘increasing’ evidence, but this evidence was one paper from 1986: an experiment on sheep foetuses exposed to low oxygen levels. As a result, they concluded, and ever since have advised mothers accordingly, that there is no requirement for foetal painkillers prior to an abortion at any gestational age even up to the point of birth. 

Again though, this does not square with practice in relation to in utero corrective surgery on unborn babies.

Sadly this is not surprising given the varied lengths RCOG has gone to in dehumanising the unborn baby whose life will come to an end in abortion. For example, specifically using language which ignores the humanity of the child such as ‘products of conception’, a ‘pregnancy’ and, by the president of the RCOG, likened to a bunion

Moreover, the RCOG, who author all clinical guidelines for the UK abortion industry and have many members who benefit from this, are effectively unaccountable without checks or oversight. The Department of Health does not let the tobacco industry govern itself, but it does allow this freedom to the abortion industry, worth an estimated £118 million annually in 2011. They also use their position of unchecked authority to advise parliament and publish their version of abortion advice to schools.

RCOG clinical guidelines are more untouchable than the law itself. Our law is made by elected representatives in the open to serve the country; their clinical guidelines are made by an unaccountable body behind closed doors to serve themselves.

So, based on their past form and knowing that they can publish unaccountably, what advice will they come up with for these babies being aborted without painkiller? Unless their hand is forced, anything they wish.

Until RCOG say otherwise, around ten mothers a day* continue to proceed with a very late term abortion (post 20 weeks) 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 foetal painkillers will be given.

*In 2018, there were 3,602 abortions after 20 weeks. Therefore, there were approximately 10 late term abortions (post 20 weeks) every day in 2018. (See Abortion statistics 2018: data tables T5)

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

Scottish mother pressured to have an abortion by doctors gives birth to healthy boy

A Scottish mother who was persistently pressured by doctors to have an abortion has given birth to her healthy son.

The mother, Lauren Webster, from North Lanarkshire, was told at a 13-week ultrasound scan that her unborn son had a ‘bladder obstruction’ and it was thought he could have Edwards syndrome – a serious genetic condition which means the child is unlikely to survive for very long outside of the womb. (Although in rare cases, people with Edwards syndrome have been known to survive to adulthood.)

The doctors monitored the development of Lauren’s baby closely and “[e]very week” the doctors asked “[her] if [she] wanted to terminate.”

Lauren told the doctors to stop asking her if she wanted an abortion, insisting that she wanted to keep her baby. The doctors however continued to ask especially after they became concerned about the possibility of the child developing Edwards syndrome.

Despite the unrelenting pressure from her doctors, the mother Lauren refused to give in, saying she had “a gut feeling” her baby would survive.

Doctors were “gobsmacked” when baby Ollie was born via caesarean section with no major health problems at all.

His bladder obstruction had resolved itself, and Edwards’ syndrome was ruled out at a scan.

Lauren said she wouldn’t want others in a similiar situation to be pressured into abortion.

“Everything they told me turned out not to have happened.”

This is not the first instance of mothers being pressured to have abortions when there is concern that the baby could be born with a disability. Last month, Natalie Halson was asked if she wanted an abortion ten times after her daughter was diagnosed with spina bifida in the womb. Nathalie resisted and her daughter had corrective spinal surgery after birth and is now flourishing.

Clare McCarthy of Right To Life UK said: “This case shows the immense pressure that mums are put under to abort their babies if they are diagnosed with a disability in the womb. It is now ‘routine procedure’ to be offered an abortion, but more so, it is expected that you would want an abortion.”

“Rather than being offered real treatment for her baby, this mother was asked time and time again if she would like to abort her child. It is a sad indictment of our healthcare system that rather than caring for both lives in a pregnancy and supporting a mother who wants to keep her baby, it is labelled as ‘routine procedure’ to pressure her to have an abortion. Secondly, the underlying attitude towards people with disabilities that this practice displays, is deeply discriminatory and unfair to both mother and unborn baby. ”

(Photo credit Adobe Stock:MoiraM)

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.”