How many of us would even think of having cardiac surgery, spinal surgery, or organ surgery, without anesthesia? The answer is no one in their right mind! Now, what if I told you that these types of surgeries are becoming routine in children as young as 20 weeks of gestation? Notice I didn’t say 20 weeks old, but rather just 20 weeks of gestation. These children are still in their mother’s womb and because of rapid advancement in technology we are now able to correct life threating birth defects before the child is even born.
That’s great news for the children and their parents, but as with so many advances in technology – it raises ethical concerns. Chief among them is the child’s ability to detect pain and what can be done to alleviate suffering during potentially life-saving, in utero surgery?
To that end, we are supporting HB 479 sponsored by Representative Al Olszewski from Kalispell. Representative Olszewski also happens to be an orthopedic surgeon which gives him special insight in this area of medicine. As he said in a recent lecture, fetal surgery was nearly unheard of in Montana as recently as five years ago and was extremely rare as recently as three years ago. While still not routine, it’s becoming more and more prevalent forcing us to deal with some of the side issues including the recognition and alleviation of pain. Research shows that the ability to feel pain begins with the development of the cerebral cortex and by 20 weeks of gestation the cortex is developed enough for pain to become an issue. Research also shows that fetal surgery conducted without anesthesia results in increased trauma, delayed healing, and higher fetal mortality. With that in mind HB 479 does three things.
- It requires determination of the exact gestational age of a fetus prior to surgery.
- It requires the administration of anesthesia prior to any surgery or invasive procedure performed on any fetus whose gestational age is 20 weeks or more.
So far so good – all reasonable people would agree that if a fetus is capable of feeling pain then we should do everything in our power to alleviate both pain and suffering. Unfortunately, this is where logic and emotion diverge because the third requirement of the bill is…
- Anesthesia must be administered prior to aborting any fetus after 19 weeks gestation.
As you can imagine, pro-abortion proponents at NARAL and Planned Parenthood are going ballistic. To them, it doesn’t matter that abortion after 20 weeks is an invasive procedure that can be felt by the fetus. Once again, we are being asked to hold abortion sacrosanct and treat it differently than any other surgical procedure. Fortunately for the kids involved, it’s becoming harder and harder to deny the obvious humanity of the pre-born child.
It began with advances of in utero photography and continues with advances in fetal surgery. I predict that in our life-time, the evidence will become so overwhelming that public pressure will force the courts to overturn Roe v. Wade. But until then, we’ll continue to support logical legislation like HB 479 that by extension – shines a big spot light on America’s most abhorrent surgical procedure.
How much difference does a week or two make?
Children have survived premature birth at only 21 weeks.
Unless the anesthesia would endanger/kill the baby, give it the benefit of the doubt.