Journal Refuses to Retract Study Wrongly Claiming Unborn Feel No Pain

News: Life and Family
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  June 16, 2016   

Allegations of research bias surround the 2005 study

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CHICAGO ( - A prominent medical journal is refusing to retract a 2005 article suggesting babies can't feel pain in the womb before the third trimester.

James Agresti, president of the research organization, requested earlier this year that the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) retract the article "Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence."

It came to light just days after the study was published that two of the five researchers involved may have been biased because they work in the abortion industry.

Dr. Eleanor Drey was performing abortions while participating in the study and was an outspoken advocate of abortion. She has admitted she incorporates activism in her medical training. "I am very lucky because I get to train residents and medical students," she said, "and I really do feel that it's a type of activism. I'm training them to treat women well."

Susan J. Lee was a medical assistant at the time of her contribution, but before that she was a lawyer for NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1999 to 2000.

The editor at the time admitted she didn't know of the association, but it wouldn't have prevented the study from being published because it was peer-reviewed.

National Right to Life responded to the article saying, "The authors' conclusion (which was predetermined by their political agenda ...) is disputed by experts with far more extensive credentials in pain research than any of the authors."

The JAMA article continues to be cited by abortion advocates to prove to critics that unborn babies can't feel pain until the 29th week of gestation.

Agresti has published multiple studies on the website disputing the study and introducing new studies that have shed light on the subject. He also sent letters with new studies to JAMA on May 29 and June 1 requesting that the 2005 article be retracted.

On Tuesday, Dr. Howard Bauchner, JAMA editor-in-chief, responded to Agresti's request, saying "[T]here is no evidence that the article on fetal pain by Lee et al. published in JAMA 2005 should be retracted."

He says the authors were "quite careful in their conclusion," stressing that they "included modifiers that reflect their review of the evidence available at that time, including uncertainty."

He claimed that "there is no evidence supporting other issues that would necessitate retraction, such as fabrication or falsification."

Addressing the issue of the alleged conflict of interest, Bauchner commented,

With respect to the issue you raise regarding potential conflict of interest, the information we have indicates that the authors complied with the journal conflict of interest requirements of 2005. Moreover, in other published articles in which questions have been raised about whether authors have fully disclosed their affiliations and interests those types of question have not necessitated retraction.

Fourteen states have enacted legislation — the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — to limit abortion to no later than 20 weeks, where new research shows children in the womb can feel the excruciating pain of being ripped apart, scalded, or poisoned to death in abortions.

The liberal Huffington Post insists claims of fetal pain are "junk science" and that the 2005 JAMA study is "unassailable."


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