Three things of note about this research.
First, is that the two authors (Stuart WG Derbyshire and John C Bockmann) are on different sides of the abortion debate:
The two authors of this paper have very different views on the morality of abortion. One of us believes that abortion is necessary for women’s health and autonomy, while the other believes that abortion violates the ethical principle of non-maleficence and ought to be restricted and discouraged.
I’d say it’s unusual to hear of a pro-choice person willing to collaborate with a pro-life person on abortion.
Second, is that most previous research on fetal pain believed that that the cortex was necessary for pain experience. There is new evidence to the contrary, and pain could be felt as early as 13 weeks gestation.
“Reports often suggest that the cortex and intact thalamocortical tracts are necessary for pain experience. Given that the cortex only becomes functional and the tracts only develop after 24 weeks, many reports rule out fetal pain until the final trimester. Here, more recent evidence calling into question the necessity of the cortex for pain and demonstrating functional thalamic connectivity into the subplate is used to argue that the neuroscience cannot definitively rule out fetal pain before 24 weeks.”
“The most common surgical technique is dilatation and evacuation (D&E). In a D&E, the cervix is dilated, the amniotic fluid drained, and the fetus is removed in pieces via several surgical manoeuvres using grasping forceps. Again fetal death follows either direct feticide performed before the D&E or the trauma of the D&E results in the death of the fetus. We consider the possibility of fetal pain during these two procedures post-13 weeks’ gestation.”
Canada performs D&E abortions. Thousands of them. Every year.
In 2018 Canadian doctors performed at least 2,076 D&E abortions according to CIHI. I say at least because CIHI only reports D&E abortions for those performed in hospitals. We do not know the numbers of these abortions performed in clinics. We also know that CIHI reported at least 3,002 hospital abortions done between 13 and 21+weeks gestation, with an additional 3,818 of unknown gestational ages. How many of those unknown gestational age abortions were done? We don’t know.
(Once again the gestational ages of the clinic abortions are also not reported. Also the “gestational age” abortions are not in addition to the “type” of abortion; they are different ways of categorizing the same hospital abortions. But since D&E abortions are done from 13-24 weeks gestation, we must ask ourselves exactly what type of abortion this difference of 926 is made up of?
Third, regardless of the sheer number of how many D&E abortions are performed each year in Canada (and one is too many), shouldn’t we also be concerned about the morality of the pain inflicted on the fetus? It is refreshing to see a pro-choice person care enough about fetal pain, as well as the morality of causing fetal pain, to undertake such research.
“We also agree that if fetal pain is likely then that has ethical and clinical significance independent of any views on the morality of abortion per se. That said, it is also clear to us that the issue of fetal pain has ethical significance because of abortion practices and not because of other surgical or therapeutic fetal procedures.”
Thousands of Canadian children in the womb are pulled apart every year, limb by limb, without anesthesia, when it is very probable that they feel those limbs being crunched and ripped. Just imagine someone doing the same to you. That would be called barbaric.
More on fetal pain here.