There's more evidence babies can feel pain at early stages in the womb, but one physician says the overriding question is whether society will recognize the need to protect the preborn child.
Earlier this year, a study published in the journal Cell documented that as early as the first trimester a preborn baby has produced an adult-like nervous system pattern, concluding that pain is real to the in utero child.
Dr. Anita Showalter, associate dean for clinical education at Pacific Northwest University, tells OneNewsNow that doctors doing surgery in utero on preborn babies know they can feel pain – otherwise, why else would they give the babies anesthesia?
"This most recent study shows that the early development of the nerves in the fingers and the extremities is much more developed than we had thought earlier," explains Showalter. "Those early [in utero] observations could be true that the fetus actually is feeling pain."
Other studies suggest preborn babies feel pain as early as six weeks, and Showalter points out that society puts a lot of value into not causing pain in any creatures.
"So this actually [replaces] the question of When does the fetus become a human [with] When does the fetus feel pain," Showalter contends, "because we wish to be a civil society that does not inflict pain on living creatures."
The new research may help people better understand why pro-lifers in Congress are working hard to pass a bill to ban abortions at 20 weeks: they know a baby in the womb suffers excruciating pain.