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Judge Asks Doctor If Fetus Can Feel Pain

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    http://www.ajc.com/ Judge Asks Doctor if Fetus Can Feel Pain By LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press Writer NEW YORK (AP)--In questioning that at times turned
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
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      Judge Asks Doctor if Fetus Can Feel Pain
      By LARRY NEUMEISTER
      Associated Press Writer


      NEW YORK (AP)--In questioning that at times turned graphic, a judge
      deciding the constitutionality of a new ban on some abortions grilled
      a doctor Wednesday on whether a fetus feels pain during the
      procedures.

      The inquiry came in U.S. District Court in Manhattan after lawyers on
      both sides had finished questioning Dr. Timothy Johnson, a plaintiff
      in one of three lawsuits brought to stop enforcement of the Partial-
      Birth Abortion Ban Act.

      ``Does the fetus feel pain?'' Judge Richard C. Casey asked Johnson,
      saying he had been told studies of a form of abortion usually
      performed in the second trimester had concluded they do.

      Johnson said he did not know, adding he knew of no scientific
      research on the subject.

      The judge then pressed Johnson on whether he ever thought about fetal
      pain while performing abortions involving dismemberment. Another
      doctor a day earlier had testified that a fetus sometimes does not
      immediately die after its limbs are pulled off.

      ``Simple question, doctor,'' the judge told Johnson. ``Does it cross
      your mind?''

      Johnson said it did not.

      ``Never crossed your mind?'' the judge asked again.

      ``No,'' Johnson answered.

      The exchange touched a key element of the government's argument that
      the ban blocks a particularly gruesome type of abortion that causes
      pain to the fetus and is not needed to protect a woman's health
      because other options are safer.

      Abortion-rights advocates and their physician witnesses say the
      procedure in which the fetus is partially outside the woman's body
      before the abortion is completed is sometimes the safest option and
      often protects a woman's health rather than harms it.

      The constitutionality of the law, signed by President Bush in
      November after eight years of congressional research, is being
      decided in simultaneous trials in New York, San Francisco and
      Lincoln, Neb. Before the start of the New York trial this week, Casey
      declined to exclude evidence about fetal pain.

      Casey also questioned Johnson about whether physicians warn women
      that a fetus is dismembered during an abortion.

      ``So you tell her the arms and legs are pulled off?'' Casey asked.
      ``I mean, that's what I want to know. Do you tell her?''

      ``We tell her the baby, the fetus, is dismembered as part of the
      procedure, yes,'' answered Johnson, a University of Michigan
      professor and research scientist at the school's Center for Human
      Growth and Development.

      Casey asked Johnson if doctors tell women that the abortion procedure
      they might use includes ``sucking the brain out of the skull.''

      ``I don't think we would use those terms,'' Johnson said. ``I think
      we would probably use a term like decompression of the skull or
      reducing the contents of the skull.''

      The judge responded, ``Make it nice and palatable so that they
      wouldn't understand what it's all about?''

      Johnson said doctors merely want to be sensitive.

      ``We try to do it,'' Johnson said, ``in a way that's not offensive or
      gruesome or overly graphic for patients.''


      AP-NY-03-31-04 2214EST

      Copyright 2004, The Associated Press. The information contained in
      the AP Online news report may not be published, broadcast or
      redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated
      Press.

      © 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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