2016 Code of Alabama
Title 26 - INFANTS AND INCOMPETENTS.
Chapter 23B - ALABAMA PAIN-CAPABLE UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION ACT.
Section 26-23B-2 - Legislative findings.

AL Code § 26-23B-2 (2016) What's This?
Section 26-23B-2Legislative findings.

The Legislature makes all of the following findings:

(1) Pain receptors (nociceptors) 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 subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks.

(2) By eight weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example by recoiling.

(3) 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 is applied without such anesthesia.

(4) In the unborn child, application of such painful stimuli is associated with significant increases in stress hormones known as the stress response.

(5) Subjection to such painful stimuli is associated with long-term harmful neurodevelopmental effects, such as altered pain sensitivity and, possibly, emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities later in life.

(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, provides strong evidence for the conclusion that a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain.

(7) Substantial evidence indicates that children 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 subcortical plate, to fulfill the role of pain processing.

(10) The position, asserted by some medical experts, that the unborn child remains in a coma-like sleep state that precludes the unborn child experiencing pain is inconsistent with the documented reaction of unborn children to painful stimuli and with the experience of fetal surgeons who have found it necessary to sedate the unborn child with anesthesia to prevent the unborn child from thrashing about in reaction to invasive surgery.

(11) Consequently, there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks after fertilization.

(12) It is the purpose of this state to assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain.

(13) Alabama's compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain is intended to be separate from and independent of Alabama's compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage of viability, and neither state interest is intended to replace the other.

(14) Mindful of Leavitt v. Jane L., 518 U.S. 137 (1996), in which in the context of determining the severability of a state statute regulating abortion, the United States Supreme Court noted that an explicit statement of legislative intent specifically made applicable to a particular statute is of greater weight than a general savings or severability clause, it is the intent of this state that if any one or more provisions, sections, subsections, sentences, clauses, phrases, or words of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is found to be unconstitutional, the same is hereby declared to be severable and the balance of this act shall remain effective notwithstanding such unconstitutionality. Moreover, this state declares that it would have passed this act, and each provision, section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, or word thereof, irrespective of the fact that any one or more provisions, sections, subsections, sentences, clauses, phrases, or words, or any of their applications, were to be declared unconstitutional.

(Act 2011-672, p. 1784, §2.)

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