In spite of polls showing that a majority of Americans generally oppose abortion, the legislative and judicial environment remains hostile to life. As a result, pro-life activists and lawmakers have been forced to become increasingly creative in their attempts to protect the unborn.
The partial birth abortion ban was a start in a trend to prohibit a certain type of abortion. Nebraska, Alabama and Idaho have enacted laws that highlight the unborn baby as the victim capable of feeling pain at least by the twentieth week of gestation.
New Idaho Fetal Pain Law Being Challenged
Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act into law in April 2011. Not surprisingly, the Idaho law is being challenged.
A class-action lawsuit is being brought by a woman who claims to have aborted her child at 20 weeks using the abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) that she ordered online. These drugs are normally prescribed for very early abortions. Supposedly they are only effective for aborting a baby of less than nine weeks gestation.
The Plaintiff, Jennie Linn McCormack, claims that she had been prosecuted under a 1972 Idaho law that prohibits self-abortion. Since the abortion pills were taken at home, the medical abortion constituted a “self-abortion.” McCormack’s lawsuit attacks both the 1972 law and the 2011 fetal pain law, claiming an undue burden on rural women who do not have access to urban abortion clinics.
The fetal pain law is an example of pro-life advocates taking advantage of the advance of science in the area of fetal capability. The advent of ultrasound made it impossible for abortion supporters to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Research on the neurology of the fetus confirms that the brain and nervous system is developed enough by eight and a half weeks for the baby to be able to feel pain. Fetal scientists believe there is no doubt that by 20 weeks the fetus can certainly feel pain.
Interestingly, Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into fetal pain. Dr. Zielinski was a pro-life activist when he was still an intern at Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago. In the late 1980’s he worked with Pro-Life Action League volunteers who retrieved the bodies of unborn babies from the garbage behind a Michigan Avenue abortion clinic, identifying the gestational age of the aborted babies, as we examined and photographed them in our garage.
Rally in Support of Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” September 20
Pro-lifers in Ohio are seeking to restrict abortion to an even earlier point in pregnancy than the fetal pain laws of Idaho, Nebraska and Alabama. The Ohio House of Representatives passed the “Heartbeat Bill” on June 28, 2011. The law would require a test for fetal heartbeat before an abortion could be performed. If detected, the woman must be informed of the baby’s heartbeat, and the abortion would then be prohibited. Essentially, “If it is detected, it is protected.”
Ohio pro-lifers believe the heartbeat bill has a good chance to make it into law. Joe and I will be joining pro-life leaders from all over the United States at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, on September 20th for a prayer vigil and rally before opening of Ohio’s fall legislative session.
Someone will probably bring a court challenge to this law too. But the march of science is inevitable.
The Pro-Life Movement Has a Friend in Science
Justice Harry Blackmun, in his Roe v. Wade opinion, noted that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting unborn life:
The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a “person” within the language and meaning of the fourteenth amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, [p157] for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.
Perhaps we are getting close to the day when the U. S. Constitution once again protects prenatal life. Science has always been a friend to the pro-life position. It is simply a matter of research and more sophisticated instruments to prove what everyone knows in his heart—the unborn child is a human person with the innate value that belongs to every other human life.