I normally do not read “Time” magazine, but I was recently sitting in a physician’s office waiting to talk to him about a silly bump on my leg when I noticed that he actually had THIS WEEK’S “Time” so I couldn’t resist.  Thumbing through it, I saw a big, bold typed “35” and the caption underneath said:  “Age, in weeks after conception, at which premature infants first distinguished pain from general sensations of touch.”  For some reason, there was no reference to where they got that number.

Hmmmmm, I thought to myself, as I kept rubbing the bump on my leg.  Could this be fodder for another award-winning blog?

As loyal readers know, in the past we’ve had innumerable heated discussions about when the fetus is formed, when it has a heartbeat, when it can tell the difference between Yo Yo Ma and The Ramones and, yes, when it feels pain.  All of these arguments are designed to determine when/if the fetus becomes/is a “human being.”  Around and around we go, with no end in sight.  Hell, there are 50 years olds who still don’t know the difference between Yo Yo Ma and The Ramones, but that’s beside the point.

So, what does this statement in “Time” mean?  Here’s my thought:

The way I interpret this is that the (and for purposes of consistency I will use the pro-choice word) fetus is floating around in there, not really knowing what is going on.  Nuclear war could have erupted outside for all it knows and it is just chilling.  Absent any action from the outside, it will keep growing and growing.

But let’s say the fetus is now 8 weeks old and, unbeknownst to him/her/it, its host has decided that she does not want that  fetus to grow anymore, she has decided she cannot give birth.  The woman makes an appointment with the local abortion clinic a few days hence.  She goes to the clinic, the fetus not realizing what’s going on or what’s going to happen (and, please pro-lifers, if you really believe the fetus can actually suspect something, prove it).  The woman goes through the preliminary steps, makes it to the surgical table and the doctor begins the process.

The vacuum apparatus is inserted into the woman and the fetus is still floating around, unaware of what is coming next.  Now, let’s make the incredibly ridiculous assumption that the fetus at that point can “feel” something, that it is aware that something is touching it.  So, here comes this plastic tubing, the open end facing the fetus.  Then the machine is turned on.

According to “Time” magazine, the fetus hasn’t the foggiest idea of what is going on, whether this foreign item is a “friend” or “foe.”   Indeed, if the fetus was 22 or more and the forceps or a needle made contact with it, the fetus still does not know that whatever is touching it is a good thing or a bad thing.

I am firmly pro-choice but have always said that procuring an abortion can be a sad event.  One reason is that I’m sure many women do wonder what, if anything, the fetus feels during an abortion.  If they read this little blurb in “Time,” I wonder if they would feel somewhat comforted?