In a move that will inevitably be challenged by abortion rights supporters, Nebraska has adopted a law banning abortions at or beyond 20 weeks of gestation. If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it could become the most important abortion case in years; there's no legal precedent for a blanket ban on abortion before 22-to-24 weeks—the point at which most fetuses can survive outside the womb—and Nebraska's decision is founded on the controversial assertion that fetuses feel pain. Should Nebraska's law stand? (Watch a CNN debate about Nebraska's abortion law.)
Truth and compassion always win: No one could hold "the youngest surviving premature child," born at 21 weeks, and subject her to "an excruciatingly painful death," says Bradley Mattes in The Christian Post. The Pain-Capable Child Protection Act is precisely the kind of compassionate "new thinking that could successfully challenge Roe v. Wade."
"A painful reality"
Nebraska's law is based on a lie: Scientists believe that the neural pathways that let us feel pain don't begin to develop until between 23 and 30 weeks' gestation, says Julie Marsh at Cafemom. But the Nebraska ban is about emotion, not science. Its purpose is to erode support for abortion with the image of a child in pain, "a shot to the heart of nearly any parent."
"The fetal pain claim"
Nebraska will lose in court, but anti-abortion activists still win: Even if this ban is ultimately declared unconstitutional, says Tracy Clark-Flory in Salon, pro-life activists "will have successfully pressured the Supreme Court into reconsidering abortion restrictions." A "technical loss" may be percieved as "a major win."
"Nebraska's abortion bill hasn't got a prayer"
It's science that is fueling the "fetuses feel pain" theory: The pro-life side has gained support over the past 15 years because technological advances have given us a clearer picture of life in the womb, says Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. As science helps "us to see—and save—babies" earlier, the consensus will grow that "pre-born babies are indeed human beings, deserving of our love, our compassion, and, most important, our protection."
"Bringing humanity back to the abortion debate"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
- The NFL is terrified of the culture war
Subscribe to the Week