Physicians Urge Appeals Court to Consider Fetal Pain in Abortion Law

Medical professionals in Arizona are urging for an appeals court to consider evidence that points to the fact that fetuses can feel pain, when they contemplate a proposal that would make abortions illegal after 20 weeks.

The legal brief was filed on Oct. 10 with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and argued that the state has an obligation as well as an interest to curtail or prevent any and all actives that produce pain.

The amicus brief was filed on behalf of Doctors on Fetal Pain, which is a collection of doctors and others in the medical industry, who are dedicated to making evidence readily available that shows that the unborn can feel pain.

"Hormonal, behavioral, and physiologic evidence supports the legislature's conclusion that a fetus at twenty weeks gestation feels pain," the amicus brief read.

The brief directly challenges the Arizona law which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of a medical emergency. However, medical professionals with Doctors on Fetal Pain state that fetuses can feel pain well before the 20 week mark.

Yet when the law was being written in the state's legislature, lawmakers considered both scientific and medical evidence that showed a fetus' ability to feel pain at this stage in development.

There has been a consensus of a fetus' ability to fell pain, but conflict still is produced over the exact moment within a pregnancy that an unborn child is able to feel and react to pain. And the challenge to Arizona's new abortion law is focused on that.

The thinking goes, by limiting the time frame that it is permissible to obtain an abortion the less likely a fetus would feel pain during an abortion procedure.

A previous Arizona district court decision stated that the state had an interest in limiting the pain of the unborn.

"The Court should affirm the decision of the district court that Arizona has a constitutionally recognizable interest in limiting the infliction of pain on the unborn," according to the amicus brief.

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