Former Abortionists Testify/Program 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1990
How does abortion feel to the baby in the womb? Is the baby capable of experiencing pain even during the first trimester of pregnancy?

Editor’s note: Reader caution is advised. The transcript contains graphic medical descriptions.

Does the Baby Feel Pain in the Womb?

Dr. John Ankerberg: Today, those who argue for abortion on demand talk a lot about how inconvenient the state of pregnancy is for women. Abortion is seen to be a quick, easy, and relatively painless solution. Yet you hardly ever hear them talk about the child that is destroyed by that quick and easy abortion.
Have you ever wondered how an abortion must feel to a child in the womb? Have you ever wondered how old the child must be before it feels pain?
In this program we will look at this important area, and you will actually see with your own eyes how a child in the first trimester, that is, the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, reacts and tries to avoid the abortionist’s destructive tools.
Today, we have painkillers for women who have abortions, so they won’t feel the pain. What painkiller is given to the child in the womb who has his arms and legs cut away from his body, and has his head crushed?
Those who are pro-abortion argue that 91% of the 1.5 million abortions that take place each year in the United States take place in the first trimester, that is, the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Of the 91%, or 1,365,000 abortions, half of these are performed on unborn children who are 8 to 12 weeks old. That would mean 682,500 children are destroyed by abortion when they look like this.
The science of fetology tells us that every organ in the baby’s body is already present at eight weeks. From this point on, the child will only develop and grow. The baby’s heart had been beating since the third week. From only the 42nd day, the child’s brain has been emitting brain waves, just like an adult’s.
Now, this is how the child looks at 12 weeks, which is still the first trimester. Then, after this first trimester, 8% of all abortions, or 120,000 each year, are performed on children in the womb during the second trimester, weeks 12 through 24. At this time the child looks like this. At 19 to 20 weeks, children are viable, that is, they can live and survive on their own, outside of their mother’s womb.
And finally, 1% of all abortions each year, or approximately 15,000, are performed on children in the womb during the third trimester, that is week 24 through 36, and the child looks like this.
Now, the question is, at what point does the growing child in the womb feel the pain of the abortionist’s destructive measures? I asked this question of Dr. Joseph Randall, a practicing obstetrician in Atlanta. Dr. Randall was formerly the head of an abortion clinic in Atlanta, and performed thousands of abortions.
Dr. Joseph Randall: The baby in the womb feels pain, as far as I can estimate, as soon as he has nerve cells. And he has those in just a matter of weeks after he is conceived. These nerve cells start to develop and go down rudimentary spinal cords as that develops. And by eight weeks the baby is all there.
Ankerberg: I also asked this question of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a practicing obstetrician in New York City. Dr. Nathanson was formerly one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League, NARAL, and once directed the world’s largest abortion clinic.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson: I think the baby probably feels pain in all of them. The degree, the sophistication of the perception, certainly varies with the length of gestation. I’m sure that babies at 21 weeks feel the pain more intensely, can localize it with much better precision, than a baby at 12 weeks. I think the baby at 12 weeks probably just has a reflex archetype of pain sensation. But, yes, there’s really little question that pain is felt in some degree or other during an abortion.
Ankerberg: Now, it’s one thing to talk about the child feeling pain, it’s another thing altogether to watch a child experience it. Dr. Nathanson will show you.
Nathanson: We have, then, the 12-week unborn child in the uterus. The uterus being this muscle that’s surrounding the child. When the abortionist commences the procedure, he will first place this instrument, which is known as a speculum, into the woman’s vagina, and will then open it in order to visualize the cervix, the neck of the womb, here. Having visualized the cervix, the abortionist then takes this instrument, which is known as a tenaculum, and fastens it securely, through the speculum, onto the cervix in this manner, clamping shut the tenaculum, and getting a firm grasp on the cervix. This instrument is then introduced into the uterus, and it is then removed, the abortionist having ascertained exactly how deep, and in fact how large, the uterus is.
And then this set of dilators, these metallic curved instruments are used to affect the opening of the cervix in order to introduce, finally, the abortion instruments themselves. He will then take the instrument known as the suction apparatus, which is opened—it is in a sterile container prior to the actual use of the instrument—and then this will be inserted through the dilated cervix, up into the uterus, and will then puncture the sac surrounding the child, allowing the amniotic fluid to escape. The instrument then will come into direct contact with the child. And with a pressure of approximately 55 or so millimeters of mercury applied to the end of this instrument, as it is attached to a long, thick suction tubing at this end, and to the abortion instrumentation, that is, the machine at the other end, the suction tip will begin to tear the child apart. The pieces of the body are torn away one by one, until finally all that remains are shards of the body and the head itself.
The head will be too large to come through this instrument itself. This will necessitate the introduction of this instrument, called a polyp forcep, into the uterus through the already dilated cervix. And the abortionist will then attempt to grasp the free-floating head of the child in the uterus between the rings of this instrument. The head is then crushed, the contents of the head removed, and finally, the bones of the head. And the abortion is then, effectively, at an end.
Now, for the first time, we are going to see a film made with real-time ultrasound imaging, of a 12-week abortion. Bear in mind that this is not an unusual instance, a late abortion. This is one of the 4,000 or so a day done every day in the United States. Now, let’s turn to the actual film itself.
We are now looking at a sector scan of a real-time ultrasound imaging of a 12-week unborn child. The child is orientated in this direction. You are looking now at the head of the child here; the body of the child here; and this image is the child’s hand, approaching its mouth. Looking a little more closely at the child, we can discern the eye, or the orbit of the eye, here; the nose of the child here; the mouth of the child here; and we can even look at the ventricle of the brain here—this is a fluid-filled space in the brain. We see the body of the child here, with the ribs in silhouette and the spine of the child at the back.
Now, this shadow, which we are seeing down at the bottom of the screen, is the suction tip. We have colored the suction tip deliberately in order for you to discern it more clearly. But the abortionist has now dilated the cervix, and is now inserting this suction tip, which you can see moving back and forth across the screen. Now the suction tip has not actually touched the child, even though the child is extremely agitated, and moving in a violent manner. But we can see the tip moving back and forth as the abortionist seeks the child’s body.
We see the child’s mouth wide open in a silent scream in this particular freeze-frame. This is the silent scream of a child threatened, imminently, with extinction.
The membrane has now been punctured, and the fluid has escaped. One no longer sees that large reservoir of fluid surrounding the child. But once the fluid has been drained off, the suction tip has now been firmly clamped to the child’s body, and the child is being pulled in a downward direction by the abortionist’s suction tip with the negative pressure applied to it. And the body is now being torn systematically from the head; the head of the child being in this direction here. I am now outlining the child’s head. The lower extremities have already been lost. And we see the suction tip flashing from time to time in the screen as a typhoon-like series of echoes, and the child is being tugged back and forth, as the suction tip has now been applied to the body, and the abortionist is exerting his traction on the child in this manner.
The child’s head is still discernable here. The body is no longer discernable. It has now been torn from the head. What we see now is the head itself, with what is called the midline echo of the head, and the spicules, or fragments of bone.
Now this head, which I am outlining here on this 12-week child, is simply too large to be pulled in one piece out of the uterus. The abortionist is going to have to employ this instrument, the polyp forcep, in an attempt to grab the head. The abortionist will attempt to crush the head with this instrument in this manner, and remove the head, piecemeal, from the uterus. And the head is now being locked on by this polyp forcep, and the head is being pulled down toward the cervix.
Now, all we see remaining are simply the shards, the broken fragments, the pieces of tissue, which document that there was once a living, defenseless, tiny human being here.
Ankerberg: Now, if we are a humane people, a civilized society, how can we permit defenseless children to be painfully destroyed by the practice of abortion? You might say, “But, John, before eight weeks, we don’t know that these children feel much pain.” So is an abortion okay?
Dr. John C. Willke: [The woman had] just missed her second menstrual period, so this baby is about six weeks old. What the experimenter is doing here—and this baby obviously has been aborted, and will die soon after this—he is sticking this tiny little child in the most sensitive area at that age, and that’s right around the nose and mouth. This one is about two weeks or three weeks older than the other one, much more sensitive to pain now. You notice this little tiny one is going to complain much more. You see the body response is much more vigorous. That cord, incidentally, has been cut, as you can see.
Reporter: Now, will they just keep poking it until it dies?
Willke: That’s obviously what they did here. And this baby died very soon.
Ankerberg: If the pain is the reason we should not allow defenseless children to be torn apart in the womb, then according to science, we can be certain that no abortion should be allowed after eight weeks of pregnancy. But every year, 682,500 children die in pain that are 8 to 12 weeks old. 120,000 more die during second trimester abortions. And these may feel pain as much as we do. And finally, 15,000 children in third trimester abortions feel pain as much as your children do outside of the womb.
Recognizing these statistics, have you stood up for the unborn children eight weeks and older, and let people in authority know that you are against all such inhumane abortions? And second, what if our technology right now is not good enough to indicate the child feels pain before eight weeks? What if, in the next few years, new technology reveals that the child feels differing degrees of pain, as Dr. Nathanson and Dr. Randall have already indicated? Could it be possible that their pain reaches all the way back to when the nerve system starts to form? If there isn’t the full sense of conscious pain, what degree of pain would you tolerate in a tiny innocent baby?
Then third, even if some day it is proven that unborn children in the womb, up to three or four weeks old, feel no pain whatsoever, would we conclude for that reason we can kill them? If you have an accident, or experience a stroke, and you lose all feeling of pain in your body, at that time, and for that reason, would it be all right for someone to come and kill you? No. And neither should it be all right to kill the unborn children in the womb, simply because they cannot feel pain.
Yet those who are pro-abortion still argue that they can have abortion-on-demand. On what basis, you might ask. Well, they do so on the basis that there is a difference between the biological category of “human life,” and the legal category called “personhood.” Let’s look at these two categories.
First, the scientific evidence clearly shows that human life begins at conception. In 1981 the United States Congress conducted hearings to answer the question, “When does human life begin?” A group of internationally known scientists from around the world appeared before a Senate Judiciary Committee. World-famous geneticist, Dr. Jerome Lejeune, professor of fundamental genetics at the University of Descarte, Paris, France, declared this, “Each individual has a very unique beginning: the moment of its conception. If a fertilized egg is not, by itself, a full human being, it could never become a man, because something would have to be added to it. And we know that does not happen.”
Professor Roth of Harvard University Medical School stated this, “It is incorrect to say that the biological data cannot be decisive. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception, when the egg and the sperm join to form the zygote, and that this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of its life.”
Now, you may be surprised to learn that those who are pro-abortion agree with the scientific evidence that human life begins at conception. But, though they agree that this being is alive and it is human, they do not believe the child should be legally categorized as a person. And therefore, they feel free to kill it.
Now, this is not the first time in American history that we have made an arbitrary distinction between the biological category of a living human being, and the legal category of person. At one time in our history, American Indians were not recognized as legal persons. The reason for this was, we wanted their land. If we did not grant them the protection of our Constitution, then we would be able to take, by force, anything that belonged to them. So we denied that they were legal persons, entitled to the right to own property. As a result, we were able, legally, to take their land from them.
Next in our national list of non-persons were black slaves. In this case, we declared these human beings were really the property of their masters. The Supreme Court arbitrarily denied the biological category of human life and replaced it with a new legal definition of personhood. On this basis, Blacks were ruled to be non-persons in the Dred Scott Decision of 1857. What we wanted from slaves was their labor, and so we denied that they were persons entitled to the right to liberty. Now we view that period of our history with shame.
But we must remember that slavery at that time—as abortion is now—was a very profitable practice. Slavery was accepted socially; condoned by many churches and clergy; and in addition, it was ruled to be legal by the United States Supreme Court.
But there’s one more example. In 1973, another group of human beings were added to the non-person list, namely, the unborn children in the womb. What do we want from these children? Well, we want the money that we can get from killing them. We want to use their bodies for research; their cells to revitalize ours. We want the space that they would take up in this world. We want the time, money and food we would have to give them; the convenience we would have to give up for them. In essence, we just don’t want them around. So what have we done? We have legally redefined them and denied that they are persons. Then, on that basis, we have denied them their right to life.
Our Constitution declares that, “No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Yet in our history, we have denied all three of these for the sake of convenience, economics and expedience. In our own day, unborn human beings have been denied life; in 1857, Black human beings were denied liberty; before that, Indian human beings were denied the right to property. History has proven that we were wrong about the Indians and about the Blacks. We cannot afford to wait for history to prove that we’ve been wrong about the unborn children in the womb.
If personhood is arbitrarily bestowed by society on only those entities it views as valuable, and if, as history has shown, society is changeable in its judgments, we ought to carefully consider which class of humans might next be given the status of non-persons. Could someone arbitrarily rule that we are non-persons because they want our property; because they want the result of our work; or simply because they want to get rid of us?
Dr. John Warwick Montgomery: You know if you don’t define the beginning of human life at the moment of conception, you will necessarily define it functionally at some other juncture. It will be defined in terms of what the kid or the adult is able to do. It won’t be in terms of what the person is, but what the person is able to produce. For example, once his brain waves start operating, then he’s a person; or once his heart beats, he’s a person; or once he can accomplish this, that or the other thing, he is a valuable member of society.
The necessary consequence of this is that the minute that the society no longer values what you do, or what I do, then that same society may very well want to get rid of us.
Dr. Carolyn Gerster: There is a tremendous parallel with the decision itself, and I think this was brought home to me so much when my fourth boy, who was then nine, came home from Elementary School, and was asked to write a paragraph on the Dred Scott Decision. We looked it up in the encyclopedia and a variety of books. And I found an interesting statement by Chief Justice Taney, the majority decision; he was the Chief Justice. And I’ll never forget—I’m going to paraphrase it—but he said in essence, “Look, we’re not making slavery compulsory. Every American citizen has the right to choose whether or not to own a slave. But the abolitionist should not impose his morality on the slave owner.” And I turned to my nine-year-old, and I said, “Mark, that sounds reasonable to me, does that sound reasonable to you?” And he said, “No.” And I said, “Why not?” And with that infinite wisdom that God gives to nine-year-old boys, but somehow withholds from Supreme Court Justices, my son said, “Because the slave is a human being.”
Ankerberg: In conclusion, we have seen that science says it is an established fact that life begins at conception. Further, we have seen that science tells us it’s an established fact that the unborn child can feel the pain of an abortion as early as eight weeks and on. Yet each year, we still allow 817,500 innocent human children to feel the ultimate pain of their life being taken from them. Their silent scream, and the writing agony that they experience, can now be seen by us on our television sets. But will that be enough to cause us to act and stop this horrible torture?
Pro-abortionists today refuse to listen to the scientific facts about human life. Like other selfish and greedy people in the past, for reasons of convenience, economics and expedience, they are trying to persuade us, once again, that the biological, scientific category of what constitutes a living human being can simply be ignored. All we have to do is redefine unborn children as nonpersons, and then on that basis, they say we can kill them without penalty. Well, hopefully, we’ll see through this smokescreen and not permit abortions to continue.

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