Can a embryo or fetus feel pain?
Various opinions and studies
Can an embryo feel pain?
During a completed pregnancy, human life is medically referred to as an embryo during its
first 56, 61, or 91 days (sources differ). Later it is called a fetus until it
Many pro-life groups emphasize that embryos start to develop pain sensors a
few weeks after conception. Many readers of their literature then assume that
embryos can feel pain from this point in pregnancy onwards. However all
available evidence shows that even though these sensors develop early in
pregnancy, human embryos cannot actually sense pain. Certain major components of
the central nervous system that are necessary to feel pain are not present and
One can only imagine the needless pain and anxiety felt by women who believe
-- on the basis of some pro-life literature -- that their embryos have suffered
pain during an abortion, miscarriage, or emergency treatment for an ectopic
When can a fetus feel pain?
Many physicians and medical researchers believe that fetuses can begin to
feel pain sometime during the third trimester. This is long after:
||Essentially all miscarriages occur,
||Ectopic pregnancies have been dealt with, and
||After about 99% of abortions are performed.
Some researchers suggest fetuses cannot sense pain, no matter how far along
in pregnancy. They believe that pain can only be felt after birth.
Some pro-life physicians believe that fetuses can feel pain much earlier in
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Copyright © 1999 to 2010 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-MAY-15
Author: B.A. Robinson