Researchers’ conclusion that a fetus starts feeling pain around 20 weeks gestation have led to a change in abortion laws in some states of the United States. Many are happy that abortion is no longer available after 20 weeks and that the previous “cut off date” of 24 weeks has been reduced. But could those new laws be negatively affecting mothers and babies in cases where a woman goes into labor around 20 weeks?
According to one woman’s story, which she shared in an interview with Reuters last week, such situations do indeed come up. Reuters put it eloquently: “Danielle Deaver says she did not want a late-term abortion – she wanted a baby.” What happen in her case was that she lost the majority of her amniotic fluid – the fluid surrounding the baby to cushion it throughout pregnancy – after her rupture of membranes at 22 weeks into her pregnancy.
The advance of modern medicine and technology means that babies who are born prematurely can often be saved from 24 weeks upward, but they are still frequently born with many problems and require a long stay in the NICU, if they are lucky enough to survive. Babies born at 22 weeks are not that lucky, and Danielle Deaver was informed by doctors that her baby had few chances of survival with its undeveloped lungs. What’s more, her baby might be “slowly crushed by the uterine walls”.
So her response was that whatever would happen, she would prefer it to happen as soon as possible and to limit her baby’s suffering – which, if scientists are right about fetuses feeling pain from 20 weeks onward, there would definitely be. The new abortion laws prevented her from getting an induction to bring on labor.
Some Republicans likened such situations to euthanasia in case of elderly and really ill people who are not allowed to “speed up the process” and die either. Deaver finally went into labor 10 days after losing her amniotic fluid, and her baby died in her arms a few hours later. She argues that suffering could have been prevented with a labor induction. What do you think?