EXCLUSIVE: Utah rep. pulverizes prof who called abortion limit 'barbaric'

A University of Utah professor slammed a 15-week limit on abortions as “barbaric” and “unconstitutional.”

UU law professor and adjunct professor of medical ethics and humanities Teneille Brown published the op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune.

“First, there is no scientific proof that fetuses feel pain,” Brown wrote. “Any scientist who tells you otherwise is extrapolating the neuroscience for political gains. Brain structures necessary for feeling pain form in the first trimester. But while this brain architecture is necessary for experiencing pain, it is hardly sufficient. The truth is, we have no way of knowing whether fetuses feel pain. Pain is physiological, but it is also subjective...Just because a 10-week fetus withdraws her finger when poked, this does not mean we can prove she is experiencing pain. There are many things in nature that recoil when pricked with sharp objects...”

However, Maureen L. Condic, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, stated in a testimony (HR 1797) for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that a fetus is capable of reacting to pain at around 8-10 weeks. The White House appointed Condic to a six-year term on the National Science Board, ending May 2024.

Republican Utah state Rep. Cheryl Acton is sponsoring legislation (H.B. 136: Abortion Amendments) that “prohibits an abortion from being performed after the unborn child reaches 15 weeks gestational age except under certain circumstances.”

[RELATED: Religion prof argues that Christians should support abortion]

Brown also stated that if a fetus has a genetic defect that is “not compatible with life” and could die within several days, then Rep. Acton’s legislation would delay parents trying for another child. 

Acton responded to Brown’s op-ed in an interview with Campus Reform.

“You don’t have to be a scientist or a lawyer or a religious person to know that a human fetus is a human being and that it deserves to be protected from anyone who would harm it, including its mother,” Acton told Campus Reform.“[Brown] has some basic facts wrong.”

Acton stated that fatal fetal defects are an allowable exception in the bill and that her bill would not change penalties for abortions. In fact, the representative said, the only thing that changes with this bill is the window of opportunity for a woman to decide to have an elective abortion, limiting it to the early part of the second trimester.

The professor “objects to my description of dismemberment abortion (the type of abortion performed 95% of the time in the second trimester) as ‘barbaric,’ but how else would anyone describe a procedure that involves crushing the skull of a living fetus before extracting its limbs and body parts piece by piece from the womb?” she asked Campus Reform.

Acton remarked that Utah has laws against desecration of a corpse, but no laws against desecrating a living fetus. The reason for her objections to second trimester abortions are because “1) the physical, psychological/emotional, and fertility risks to women – risks which increase with gestation, risks which are documented in scientific journals; 2) the horrific procedure used (dismemberment); 3) our knowledge that fetuses can and do feel pain as early as 8-10 weeks (see Dr. Maureen Condic’s research); and 4) the fact that 92% of the world, including Western Europe, limits elective abortion to 12 weeks.”

[RELATED: College admin warns students of ‘disturbing’ pro-life display]

“What is ‘barbaric’ and ‘unconstitutional’ is not protecting life at it most vulnerable state,” UU College Republicans member Sophia Bagley told Campus Reform. “Whether or not pain is felt does not determine if the fetus is a human life. Furthermore, in regard to genetic testing, I would like to ask Brown where this stops.”

Bagley claimed that countries like Iceland, the UK, and Denmark are taking genetic testing far beyond terminal illnesses, and aborting close to 100 percent of babies found with down syndrome.

“Pro-life groups, like Students for Life of America, work tirelessly to equip women for success, with resources and support, so that no woman must choose between her child and her education,” Students for Life of America spokeswoman Kristi Hamrick told Campus Reform. “But it’s abortion advocates who consistently sell women short, telling them that they must choose between career and relationships because they can’t handle both. As a working mother, I find that both sad and insulting.”

Brown’s op-ed came around the same time that New York state lawmakers passed a bill allowing for abortions up until birth in some cases, as Fox News reported. A similar bill in Virginia, which has since been tabled, would have also allowed for abortions up until the moment of birth.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional quotes from Brown’s op-ed.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @francesanne123