FAQ - Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, HB 954

Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act - HB 954 FAQ

Q. Why does Georgia need to pass HB 954, referred to as the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act?”
A. Georgia law allows abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy. HB 954 is based on scientific studies which clearly show that preborn babies feel and react to pain at 20 weeks after fertilization. In fact, some research indicates that pain perceived by a preborn child is more intense than that experienced by newborns, older children and adults.

Q. What specific scientific evidence is there to support that view?
A. The following are known facts about a fetus at 20 weeks and earlier:

  • Specialized nerve endings involved in pain transmission are seen as early as 7 weeks after fertilization and are found throughout all organs by week 20.
  • Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on a fetus have seen them flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions.
  • The brain has the full complement of cells present in an adult and brain waves are present.
  • From 18 weeks of gestation, the fetus responds to painful stimulus with a sharp rise in stress hormones seen in adults. The level of these hormones actually increases in relation to the level of stimulation, indicating a greater degree of pain.
  • By 20 weeks, pain receptors have appeared throughout the body. The ability to regulate or lessen, pain does not develop until after birth. Therefore not only does the fetus experience pain, but the pain is magnified.
  • During fetal surgery, the preborn child is routinely given anesthesia.

Q. What exactly would such a law do?
A. It would prohibit all abortions after 20 weeks from fertilization.

Q. Are there any exemptions?
A. Yes. Abortion would be allowed in cases where it’s necessary to save the life of the mother, or to prevent her from suffering serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.

Q. Isn’t the primary focus to ban “late term” abortions?
A. The concept of late term abortion has no fixed legal or medical meaning. This bill prohibits abortions after the midpoint of a pregnancy (20 weeks after fertilization).

Q. Aren’t such abortions rare?
A. The most recent survey estimated that 1.5% of the 1.2 million annual abortions in the United States are performed on children at 19 weeks after fertilization, or older. That amounts to more than 18,000 abortions annually. In Georgia, nearly 1,000 such abortions, or 4% of the total, were performed in 2009.

Q. Do other states have such a law?
A. Yes: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma have passed such legislation. Besides Georgia, similar laws are being considered in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Florida and New Hampshire.

Q. Have any of these laws been challenged in court?
A. The Idaho law was unsuccessfully challenged by an individual woman.

Q. What are the arguments against such a law?
A. Pro-abortion researchers try to claim that preborn children cannot feel pain until later in the pregnancy when nerves reach the cerebral cortex. However, since 2007 medical research has indicated that those connections are not essential for a preborn child to experience pain.