Pro-life strength a Capitol reality in Oklahoma

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published 28-Feb-2011

Activists working to strengthen protections for unborn children continue to advance their cause at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The result is perhaps unsurprising in light of the November election results.

Events at the Capitol over the first three weeks of the 2011 legislative  session simply confirm the enduring strength of pro-life legislators and organizations.

The House Public Health Committee last week advanced House Bill 1888, known as the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” The measure sailed through the panel on an 11-2 vote and is now eligible for consideration before the full House, which is scheduled to come back into session Monday afternoon (February 28).

In the description of Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life, H.B. 1888, sponsored by state Rep. Pam Peterson of Tulsa and state Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond, would “would ban the aborting of an unborn child who is capable of feeling pain. Medical evidence shows that a baby can feel pain by 20 weeks after fertilization.”

Before the committee vote, Lauinger encouraged support for the measure, telling members in a letter: “This legislation has the potential not only of saving many lives, but also of becoming the focus of a national debate in which the unborn child is discussed in very human terms. We believe public discussion of the unborn child’s capacity to feel pain can greatly influence the national abortion debate, much as the partial-birth-abortion bill did in the 1990’s. That discussion demonstrably led to a significant percentage of Americans changing their view of abortion from a pro-abortion position to one which recognizes the unborn child as a living member of our human family.”

Lauinger pointed to Nebraska as a state where similar legislation has been enacted. He said there is continually emerging scientific and medical evidence that he says documents the humanity of the unborn child.

In response to questions from CapitolBeatOK, he summarized the information as follows:

“(1) Pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body by no later than 16 weeks after fertilization, and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and sub-cortical plate by no later than 20 weeks;
“(2) By eight weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human – for example by recoiling;
“(3) In the unborn child, application of such painful stimuli is associated with significant increases in stress hormones known as the stress response;
“(4) Subjection to such painful stimuli is associated with long-term harmful neuro-developmental effects, such as altered pain sensitivity and, possibly, emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities later in life;
“(5) For the purposes of surgery on unborn children, fetal anesthesia is routinely administered, and is associated with a decrease in stress hormones compared to their level when painful stimuli are applied without such anesthesia;
“(6) The position, asserted by some medical experts, that the unborn child is incapable of experiencing pain until a point later in pregnancy than 20 weeks after fertilization predominately rests on the assumption that the ability to experience pain depends on the cerebral cortex and requires nerve connections between the thalamus and the cortex.  However, recent medical research and analysis, especially since 2007, provide strong evidence for the conclusion that a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain;
“(7) Substantial evidence indicates that children who are born missing the bulk of the cerebral cortex, those with hydranencephaly, nevertheless experience pain;
“(8) In adults, stimulation or ablation of the cerebral cortex does not alter pain perception, while stimulation or ablation of the thalamus does;
“(9) Substantial evidence indicates that structures used for pain processing in early development differ from those of adults, using different neural elements available at specific times during development, such as the sub-cortical plate, to fulfill the function of pain processing.”
In information sent to CapitolBeatOK, Rep. Peterson noted the measure would exempt situations when a mother’s life is at risk of if she faces “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.”

Peterson said, “Current law requires more humane treatment of animals than of babies in the womb, yet there is no denying that an unborn child can feel pain and should not be subjected to it.”  
Lauinger also touted Senate Bill 547, the “Abortion-is-not-health care” bill from state Sen. Anthony Sykes of Moore and state Rep. Mike Ritze of Broken Arrow. The measure would prohibit coverage of elective abortions under health insurance plans and “affirm that abortion is not health care,” Lauinger said.
In a letter to committee members, Lauinger noted: “The new federal health-care law explicitly authorizes states to exclude abortion coverage in the state-based insurance “exchanges” it creates [Section 1303(a) (1), as amended by Section 10104(c), of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148]. S.B. 547 does so, and also prevents other health plans offered outside of the exchange, but within the state, from providing coverage for elective abortions except by optional, separate, supplemental coverage for abortion, for which an additional premium would be paid.”

The Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee approved the measure 6-3; it now goes to the floor of the upper chamber.

Last week, legislators, activists and some journalists attended the annual gathering of the Oklahoma Pro-Life Media Coalition. Words of welcome to attendees came from Lieutenant Govenor Todd Lamb and Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman.

Keynote speaker for the event was Carri Taylor, executive director and co-founder of Opportunities Unlimited. Taylor is perhaps best-known as a film producer, including the award-winning documentary “Life After Abortion.” The film, in Taylor’s description, tells stories of women with unplanned pregnancies who chose abortion, but later regretted that choice. Nonethess, in the film’s narrative, they moved “from desperation to devastation to deliverance.”

Taylor shared the story of her decision as a young woman, despite a crumbling marriage, to give birth to her daughter and place the child for adoption. After more than two decades of separation, the women were reunited as Taylor got to know her biological child, Rebecca Hill. Taylor has been present for the births of her grandchildren. Her message at last week’s meeting expressed gratitude to those who supported her decision to “choose life,” and the understanding she received in reconciliation with her daughter.

At the coalition gathering, a video of Governor Mary Fallin was also shown, in which the chief executive recounted the pregnancy she had during her first run for elective office, in 1990.

As in past years, Mike Jestes of Oklahoma Family Policy Council served as spokesman for the coalition, and also was moderator for the day’s proceedings. Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life briefed attendees on this year’s legislative push.

Sponsors of the event included Oklahoma Family Policy Council, Family Policy Council, Bott Radio Network, KXOJ radio, KCFO Radio, the House 89.7, KSBI-TV 52, KWHG 47, Praise 88.7, KTLV AM 1220, K-LOVE, Salem Communications, Metro Family Magazine, The Gospel Station Network, The Tulsa Beacon, OKC-Metro Voice, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, The Baptist Messenger and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Mend, Choose Life, Calvary Chapel, Crossroads Clinic, The Eden Clinic, Community Spirit, Oasis Radio Network, Shofar International Foundation, The Sooner Catholic, Catholic Charities, BirthChoice of Oklahoma, Pregnancy Resource Network, Quail Springs Baptist Church, Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption Services, Americans United for Life, Hope Pregnancy Centers, and Oklahomans for Life.