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Can a embryo or fetus feel pain?
Various opinions and studies

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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 is born.

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 functioning.

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 pregnancy.

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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:

bullet Essentially all miscarriages occur,
bullet Ectopic pregnancies have been dealt with, and
bullet 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 pregnancy.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Introduction
 
bullet

Statements by physicians and researchers on when a fetus can feel pain: Part 1  Part 2
 

bullet Laws concerning fetal pain

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Basic facts > here

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Copyright © 1999 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-MAY-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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