On April 19, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed a new state law banning abortions at and after 20 weeks. This isn't just another abortion restriction-it has the potential to be a major breakthrough in the fight for the sanctity of human life.
The Nebraska law is called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. As Marc Thiessen writes in the Washington Post, it's based on reputable scientific studies that tell us "that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, and possibly as early as 17 weeks when a portion of the brain called the 'subplate zone' is formed."
And, according to the widely respected Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, who has been studying infant pain for 25 years, unborn infants may feel pain more keenly than those already born.
Of course, the Nebraska law faces court challenges. Why? Because it restricts abortion according to when a fetus can feel pain-at 20 weeks-instead of when a fetus can survive outside the womb-usually 22 to 24 weeks. Already the Center for Reproductive Rights has called it "unconstitutional" and hinted that they're planning litigation. No doubt other pro-abortion groups will be lining up to help.
But, as Thiessen says, "regardless of the legal outcome, a national discussion on the topic of 'fetal pain' can only help the pro-life movement."
It's easy to see why. As science and technology develop ever more sophisticated ways for us to study the child in the womb, it's getting harder and harder for the pro-choice movement to argue in favor of snuffing out that child's life. And who would want to argue in favor of deliberately causing the child pain on top of that?
What we're talking about here is no less than the humanity of the fetus, and science is making that subject harder and harder to avoid.
The scientific studies are backing up what our faith had already told us: that the life in the womb is indeed a human life, with the same qualities that make us consider our own lives sacred-a beating heart, brain function, and sensitivity to pain being just a few of them. And so we believe that a child's life is a gift from God and worthy of protection and care.
Abortionists can lie all they want to about the development of the fetus. Undercover videos recently taken at a Kentucky abortion clinics show that they're still lying to women and girls about the development process. But those lies are getting easier and easier to disprove. And the facts are on our side.
The more we talk about those facts, the more the law will come to be on our side as well. Nebraska took the lead in this case because the state government wanted to prevent infamous late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart from following through on his stated intentions to carry on the work of the late George Tiller. If the Nebraska law holds up in court, other states are likely to follow.
Even the pro-abortion forces can't plausibly deny what our own eyes and ears are telling us about the life in the womb. In this case, seeing is believing-and what we're seeing, by the grace of God, could finally put a stop to the wanton destruction of unborn human lives.
This commentary was first published on April 27, 2010.