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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Controversial study claims unborn children cannot feel pain up to six months

24 August 2005

A controversial American study has claimed that unborn children do not feel pain until the third trimester of pregnancy.

Researchers at the University of California argued that babies are incapable of feeling pain without the development of consciousness, which is in turn reliant on the creation of connections between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex inside the baby's brain. These connections do not usually appear until the 23rd week of pregnancy.

However, the report has already attracted criticism from leading American experts on foetal pain, including Dr Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas who said, "This is going to inflame a lot of scientists who are very, very concerned and are far more knowledgeable in this area than the authors appear to be.

"This is not the last word - definitely not." [Independent, 24 August]

Other stories:

Scientists at Imperial College London have caused embryonic stem cells to develop into cells found in adult lungs. Researcher Dr Anne Bishop described it as "a major step" but emphasised that "it will be some years before we are able to build actual human lungs for transplantation". The British Lung Foundation welcomed the news. [BBC News, 23 August]

A group of American politicians including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein is backing a bill that would ban reproductive human cloning but preserve embryonic stem cell research. Leading researchers welcomed the news that the group is supporting cloning for research purposes while pro-life groups expressed disappointment. [Guardian Unlimited, 24 August]

Mothers who conceive through IVF treatment are more likely to suffer from post-natal depression and parenting difficulties, according to a study by Australian researchers. The authors of the study wrote, "obstetricians, paediatricians, and other clinicians caring for pregnant women and mothers and infants after childbirth should be conscious that a previous history of fertility difficulties, advanced maternal age, assisted conception, operative delivery, and multiple birth may heighten the risk for postpartum mood disturbance and early parenting difficulties." [Reuters, 23 August]

A Californian Senator, whose vote is likely to guide other Democrats in the election of Judge John Roberts for the Supreme Court, has said that she would be very unlikely to vote for anyone who was anti-abortion. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the only woman on the Senate panel said, "I happen to feel that it would be very difficult for me to vote yes on a nominee I thought would overturn Roe v Wade." She has said that she will closely scrutinise Roberts' views on abortion and other controversial issues. [CNN, 23 August]

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