A new report published in The Linacre Quarterly suggests that unborn babies may be capable of feeling pain earlier than is commonly thought – possibly as early as 8 weeks.
Dr. Bridget Thill’s report, “Foetal Pain in the First Trimester,” considered research from medical journals published from 1936 through 2021 and concluded that it “is no longer tenable” to deny the possibility that unborn babies are likely to feel pain at such an early stage.
Dr Thill’s report notes that there are five key pieces of evidence that point to the fact that foetal pain perception has implications for foetal surgery and abortion, and that foetal pain perception begins during the first trimester:
- “The neural pathways for pain perception via the cortical subplate are present as early as 12 weeks gestation, and via the thalamus as early as 7-8 weeks gestation.”
- “The cortex is not necessary for pain to be experienced.”
- “Consciousness is mediated by subcortical structures, such as the thalamus and brainstem, which begin to develop during the first trimester.”
- “The neurochemicals in utero do not cause foetal unconsciousness.”
- “The use of foetal analgesia suppresses the hormonal, physiologic, and behavioural responses to pain, avoiding the potential for both short- and long-term sequelae.”
Meanwhile, a new Marist poll in the US (published in January) shows that 71% of Americans favour more restrictions on abortion and cites ‘foetal pain’ and the concerns people have regarding the possibility that unborn babies may feel pain as one of the main reasons for supporting restrictions on abortion.