Foetus may feel pain by the 10th week of life

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A foetus may feel pain by the 10th week of life, according to research published by an anti-abortion parliamentary group yesterday. The report, compiled by 15 experts, called for more research into the possibility of foetal pain and criticised the study on which the Department of Health bases its position.

Pro-choice groups say that the cortex does not develop fully until 26 weeks and is essential for pain sensations. But the report argues that the cortex is responsible for a "great deal less than people imagine" and that the thalamus could play a vital part in experiencing pain.

More than 50 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion put forward by the Conservative MP Elizabeth Peacock attacking partial birth abortion, in which the foetus is withdrawn from the womb by piercing the skull and sucking out the brains until the head collapses.