UNBORN CHILD PAIN AWARENESS ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - December 06, 2006)
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Mr. DEAL of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 6099, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act of 2006.
This legislation is intended to ensure that women seeking an abortion are fully informed regarding the pain experienced by their unborn child. It also ensures that women will have the chance to ask questions; and, if they so choose, request that pain-reducing medicines, anesthesia, or analgesia be administered to their unborn child before the abortion takes place.
At the outset, it is important to clarify that this legislation is not about the right to have an abortion. While citizens in other parts of the world, such as in Europe and in Canada, have the opportunity to vote and express their views on the issue of whether or not abortion should be legal, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world where its citizens do not have that right. The United States Supreme Court has effectively taken it away from the American people through its decisions.
As someone who believes in the sanctity of human life, I look forward to a day when the American citizens on both sides of the abortion debate can decide the issue democratically rather than having it decided for them through judicial activism. I trust the American people to make the right decision when that day comes.
But, Mr. Speaker, today rather than dealing with the legality of abortion itself, this legislation deals with the issue of informed consent for women choosing to have an abortion. The bill requires abortion providers to inform women about the pain experienced by their unborn child. It also requires women to be given a brochure and a consent form demonstrating that they have had an opportunity to make an inform decision on whether or not to administer pain mitigation to the unborn child before the abortion is performed.
A significant body of medical evidence now indicates that fetuses experience pain. Dr. Sunny Anand, a neurologist and the Nation's leading expert on fetal pain, testified that ``the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that experienced by term newborns or other children.''
Since Dr. Anand's groundbreaking research published in 1987 showed that by 20 weeks these fetuses can feel pain, other researchers have built on his work, further verifying the pain felt by the unborn. For example, just this year British researchers performed brain scans on premature babies as young as 23 weeks from fertilization and found new physiological evidence that these premature infants feel pain.
But perhaps more important than the scientific studies, we know that doctors who perform surgery on babies in the womb, as well as babies who are born prematurely, some as early as 23 weeks of gestation, routinely administer anesthesia to these children, just like an adult who is undergoing surgery.
As Dr. Jean Wright, a physician in Savannah, Georgia, who specializes in the care and anesthesia of critically ill children, testified before Congress last year, ``If you came back with me to Savannah tonight and came to our neonatal intensive care unit, we would stand between the bed of a 23-week infant, a 26-week infant, and you would not need a congressional hearing to figure out whether that infant feels pain. We roll back the sheets or blanket, and you would look to the facial expression, their response to the heel stick, you would understand that.''
As I have stated before, the problem that this legislation seeks to address is the issue of informed consent for women seeking abortions. Like most of us, women who arrive at clinics seeking abortions are usually not trained in the medical sciences. We rely on physicians to provide all of the information needed to make an informed decision.
In the case of abortion, we need to make sure that women know all the facts, including the evidence that unborn children feel pain. This is obviously for the benefit of the unborn child who may either be spared from abortion altogether or receive pain-reducing medicines.
Truly informed consent also benefits the woman who may decide against having an abortion, or may decide to use pain mitigation for the unborn child during the abortion procedure. Either way, she will be spared the severe psychological trauma that may result from making an uninformed decision.
This legislation is a commonsense measure that both pro-life and pro-choice Members should support. In fact, NARAL, a large pro-abortion organization, has publicly declared that they do not oppose the bill.
At this time, I would like to thank the lead sponsor of the bill, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), for his work on this legislation and for being a stalwart in the pro-life cause in Congress. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
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