Nebraska Law Affirms Fetus Can Feel Pain

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New restrictions on abortion go into effect in Nebraska on Friday. The new law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and is based on the issue of fetal pain.

Under the law, women seeking abortions after 20 weeks will be told the fetus can feel pain. The women are also allowed to request anesthesia for the fetus.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., is using his state's law to push for more congressional discussion on fetal pain. Critics call the idea false science.

In 2005, doctors giving testimony during a congressional hearing could not agree if a fetus could feel pain or not. The stark difference of opinion suggests the medical community hasn't reached consensus on when during development a fetus can feel pain. That testimony was cited in the Nebraska Legislature as it debated the bill.

"How does anybody -- pro-life or pro-choice -- oppose this?" Johanns asked. "If the baby feels pain then it is an issue of human compassion."

"I don't think the U.S. Senate is as pro-life as the Nebraska unicameral (legislature)," he added. "I think we saw that with the health care debate."

Ten states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Utah -- address the notion of fetal pain in counseling information that is given to women who seek abortions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

**Originally published Oct. 15, 2010

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