Protect unborn children all over

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by Mary Spaulding Balch,

from USAToday,

Disparity in state abortion laws is tragic.

Abortion is not the only matter on which laws have differed greatly among states. For many years, the freedom of choice to own slaves was strongly protected in some states, but restricted and even prohibited in others where abolitionists had the political power to “impose their morality.”

At that time, the long-term objective of those who would “impose morality” was abolition everywhere, but their challenge was to find ways to break through the ignorance, prejudice and self-interest that caused so many to deny the humanity and freedom of the slave.

Today, the right-to-life objective is to achieve protection for unborn children everywhere, but our challenge is a similar one. How do we enlighten the blindness of those who adamantly exclude children not yet born from the protected human family?

One path to such enlightenment is legislation that 10 states have passed to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain.

We now know that pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s body, and that nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus by no later than 20 weeks after fertilization.

We know that at least by that stage, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling and by showing measurably increased stress hormones.

And we know that anesthesia is used during increasingly common fetal surgery, with the effect of lowering that stress, just as when used during surgery on a born child or an adult.

Using another path, 23 states have taken steps to ensure that a mother is offered the opportunity to view an ultrasound of her unborn child before an abortion is performed. It is easier to discount the lives and deny the existence of those we do not see. But this window on the womb lets us see children who move, who suck their thumbs — and whose hearts are beating.

We agree that the disparity in state abortion laws is tragic. But we disagree about who are the greatest victims of that disparity.

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