State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami (Pic by Meredith Geddings)
State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami (Pic by Meredith Geddings)

Trujillo says science on fetal pain is inconclusive, still pushing forward on anti-abortion bill

By | 03.01.11 | 10:49 am

State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said he filed House Bill 321 because he’s “pro-life, a devout Catholic and based on the scientific evidence,” he believes “you can have a debate on when a child can feel pain and when that fetus is viable.”

His bill, titled the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” would not allow a woman to have an induced abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Trujillo said research on whether a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks is inconclusive, but the text of his bill states, “There is substantial evidence that an unborn child has the physical structures necessary to experience pain. I would love to put on testimony for and against this bill to determine where the state of Florida stands.”

A 2010 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists fetal awareness study found that:

  • The fetus cannot feel pain before 24 weeks because the connections in the fetal brain are not fully formed.
  • Evidence … showed that the fetus, while in the chemical environment of the womb, is in a state of induced sleep and is unconscious.

“A wide range of stakeholders including scientists, doctors, midwives and lay representatives were involved in producing these reports,” a summary of the Royal College study states. “Relevant international scientific studies published since the 1990s were considered by the respective working parties as was evidence submitted to the Science and Technology Committee.”

Trujillo said he has scientists who will testify that at 20 weeks a fetus is already experiencing pain, and that there is currently legislation in at least six states to pass bills that support this statement.

The text of the Nebraska “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” signed into law in 2010, and the language introduced in H.B. 321 are very similar. Many lines are exactly the same.

The Nebraska bill received the support of the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee, which has supported these legislative proposals at the federal and state level since at least 2005.

Trujillo said the Right to Life Committee did not help draft the bill, but it did offer help, data, research and expert citations.

Trujillo said his bill introduces language to obligate “the doctor to determine the age of gestation of the child. After 20 weeks the doctor cannot proceed with the procedure, and if does, it is a third-degree felony.”

When asked why H.B. 321 didn’t include any language on fetal anomaly scans, Trujillo said he would look into the issue, adding, “I know we had some language on fetal anomaly, but I don’t see it.”

The Royal College released a report on terminations of pregnancy due to fetal anomalies along with the fetal awareness report. According to the college, the studies “are meant to be read together as both subject matters are closely related.”

“The guidelines of the Royal College seek to guide practitioners who are faced with women making hard choices in situations in which the mother’s well-being may be compromised,” Todd Goodenow, a registered nurse, told the Independent, ”and because of the emotional and political pressure society puts on these women, physicians and providers could be aided through greater understanding of fetal development. It’s an unfortunate reality that sections of our society finds it necessary to harass, intimidate, and moralize to women who may die in giving birth without an abortion.”

Jennifer Combs, a registered nurse practitioner who works with pregnant women, told the Independent that a woman and a doctor would know about a fetal anomaly at about 16 weeks. She said that in Florida especially, low-income undocumented immigrant women don’t get prenatal care until after 16 weeks.

“You are farther along into that second trimester, where if the baby has a life-threatening anomaly then it may be too late to have an elective termination if that is what she wanted to have,” Combs said.

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