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Texas-ACOG OPPOSES TEXAS ‘FETAL PAIN’ LEGISLATION HB 16 (Laubenberg)

ACOGJune 20, 2013Uncategorized

The Texas District of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Texas-ACOG) opposes HB 16 and other legislative proposals that are not based on sound science or that attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their individual patients. As a district of the Nation’s leading authority in women’s health, our role is to ensure that policy proposals accurately reflect the best available medical knowledge.

Terminology:  The use of appropriate, standard terminology is essential.

  • “Embryo” is the proper term to use for the 2nd-8th week of pregnancy; “fetus” is the correct term to use until birth.
  • “Post-fertilization” is rarely used outside of in vitro fertilization. The medical community uses the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP) to date pregnancies. Post-fertilization is not an accurate substitute.

Fetal Pain:  No credible scientific evidence exists of fetal pain perception previability. The medical profession produced a rigorous scientific review of evidence on fetal pain in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 2005. Fetal perception of pain is not confirmed prior to the 3rd trimester. Perception of pain is only confirmed after viability.

Fetal Viability:  Most obstetrician-gynecologists understand fetal viability as occurring near 24 weeks gestation utilizing LMP dating. Supporters of fetal pain present misleading evidence about fetal viability (especially in using post-fertilization age, instead of LMP dating) and falsely implying high survival rates among neonates that are overwhelmingly pre-viable. 

Fetal Anomalies:  Many fetal anomalies can be diagnosed before 20 weeks; others around 20 weeks. HB 16 makes a shallow attempt at providing an exception for “profound and irremediable congenital” fetal anomalies, however, the exception for such an anomaly is based upon the amount of time believed the infant will live after birth—minutes to hours. Physicians cannot know when death will occur with that kind of certainty.

Life of the Mother:  HB 16 fails to entirely protect women for whom pregnancy poses serious health risks. By requiring doctors to wait until a woman faces immediate injury or death, indefensibly jeopardizes a patient’s health. Instead doctors are forced to compromise patient health by waiting until a woman’s condition deteriorates and becomes life threatening or severely debilitating.

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