News and Commentary

Utah Professor Calls GOP Rep Offering Bill Banning Abortions After 15 Weeks ‘Immoral’

A University of Utah professor, writing in the Salt Lake Tribune, responded to legislation sponsored by a state Republican that would ban abortion after 15 weeks by calling the representative “immoral” for sponsoring the legislation. UU law professor and adjunct professor of medical ethics and humanities Teneille Brown also opined, “There is no scientific proof that fetuses feel pain.”

Brown was triggered by H.B. 136, from Republican Utah state Rep. Cheryl Acton, which states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, an abortion may not be performed after the unborn child reaches 15 weeks gestational age unless the abortion is permissible for a reason described in Subsection 76-7-302(3)(b).” Those exceptions include when the mother is endangered, when the baby has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and fatal, or if the child was conceived as a result of rape or incest.

Brown wrote:

Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit abortion after 15 weeks, a ban that she says is supported by “science.” From her comments on “Radio West” on Jan. 22, it seems that she knows very little about science, and she knows even less about the law.

First, there is no scientific proof that fetuses feel pain. Any scientist who tells you otherwise is extrapolating the neuroscience for political gains. Brain structures necessary for feeling pain form in the first trimester. But while this brain architecture is necessary for experiencing pain, it is hardly sufficient.

The truth is, we have no way of knowing whether fetuses feel pain. Pain is physiological, but it is also subjective.

But in 2013, as LifeSiteNews reported, Maureen L Condic, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, stated before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 1797): “The neural circuitry underlying the most basic response to pain is in place by eight weeks. This is the earliest point at which a fetus can feel pain in any capacity.”

Live Action reported in April 2017:

A breaking new study has found that preborn babies in the first trimester have “adult-like” patterns of nerves. Researchers “combined whole-mount immunostaining, 3DISCO clearing, and light-sheet imaging to start building a 3D cellular map” and found that “the adult-like pattern of skin innervation is established before the end of the first trimester, showing important intra- and inter-individual variations in nerve branches.” They also found evidence for “a differential vascularization of the male and female genital tracts concomitant with sex determination.” The full study can be seen here.

Brown continued, “So for Acton to cavalierly propose this bill, foisting her personal views on the entire population of Utah without having done her basic homework — well, that is truly immoral.”

As Frances Floresca writes at Campus Reform, Acton conducted an interview with Campus Reform in which she replied to Brown’s charges, saying, “You don’t have to be a scientist or a lawyer or a religious person to know that a human fetus is a human being and that it deserves to be protected from anyone who would harm it, including its mother. (Brown) has some basic facts wrong.” She added that Brown “objects to my description of dismemberment abortion (the type of abortion performed 95% of the time in the second trimester) as ‘barbaric,’ but how else would anyone describe a procedure that involves crushing the skull of a living fetus before extracting its limbs and body parts piece by piece from the womb?”