Texas Congressman: Masturbating Fetuses Are Proof That Fetal Pain Is Real


It's always reassuring to know that no matter how stupid things get in the state legislature, things are just as dumb, if not more so, in Congress. Perhaps "reassuring" is the wrong word. In either case, in order to fully grasp the import of this story, you should know that U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess, in addition to representing the 26th District, was once an actual, practicing OB-GYN. He did his residency at Parkland and had a practice in Lewisville for 26 years. His medical license is still active. And he wants you to know that because male fetuses appear to masturbate, he'd like to see an extreme and very early ban on all abortions.

How did Burgess get the elbow room to expound publicly on his chicken-choking theories, you may ask? As RH Reality Check reports, the House is gearing up today to debate a bill outlawing virtually all abortions in the United States after 20 weeks. Authored by Rep. Trent Franks, H.R. 1797 has been dubbed the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act."

Sound familiar yet? Yep, the same shitty science that has led your anti-abortion state legislators to claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation has also taken hold in Congress. As the AP reported, the legislation will likely pass the House today, then be ignored entirely by the Democrat-controlled Senate. And even if it did somehow make it through there, the White House has said they'll veto the bill if it gets anywhere near them.

See also:
- Texas Right to Life Pushes More Bunk Science on "Preborn Pain," Calls Observer "Anti-Life"

And yet. The mere fact that the bill exists has allowed anti-abortion Republicans to air some of their favorite theories on fetushood. During a House Rules Committee discussion on the bill, as you can see from the video above, Burgess spoke up, and Internet history was made. Due to his experience delivering thousands of babies, he said, "There's no question in my mind that a baby at 20 weeks can feel pain. The fact of the matter is I argued with the Chairman that I thought the date was far too late. we should be setting this at 15 weeks, 16 weeks...Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they're a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?"

Let's just get this out of the way right now: do fetuses masturbate in utero? Is Burgess, ahem, onto something here? Not really, as the Atlantic found. Two Italian doctors discovered in 1996 that a (female!) fetus appeared to masturbate. But that was at 32 weeks, twice the gestational age at which Burgess wants abortion banned. In a delightful TED talk, science writer Mary Roach points out that other researchers have seen similar movements in very late-term fetuses, although what's going on isn't quite clear.

But pleasure, pain or the lack thereof isn't really the point here. Burgess is an old hand at restricting abortion any way he can, boasting on his webpage of having written "the bylaws at the Medical Center of Lewisville and two Denton County surgery centers prohibiting abortions from being performed on the premises." He's an old hand, too, at voting in support of useless anti-abortion bills, voting for an "abortion pain" bill back in 2006 and an identical "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" last July.

But the Masturbating Fetus Argument, dumb and bizarre as it is, represents a new threshold in anti-abortion weirdness. That is: that a fetus seemingly making "pleasurable" movements outweighs the wishes, desires and medical needs of the woman carrying that fetus.

Also, Congressman Burgess: what, girl fetuses can't masturbate too? Maybe we need another Congressional hearing to hash this out. Right after we all start a band called the Masturbating Fetuses. Better get to it quick; everyone on Twitter has the same idea.

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77 comments
bentrue555
bentrue555

The Pain Capable Act which bans the killing of a viable fetus has exceptions for rape, incest and life of mother, does not prosecute the mother at all but abortionists who dismember or inject viable fetuses with heart stopping drugs.  Even Roe v. Wade said at some point the fetus gains interests in life that should be weighted against the interests in killing him, and if the state could prove these interests then limits to late term abortion were reasonable.  The state has proven its case whether fetuses masturbate or not.

In our country 15,000 babies are killed in utero every year at ages beyond that which others are delivered and treated as patients in neo-natal ICU. This double standard is bad for our country as it sets human value as an arbitrary measure based on the "wantedness" of the child.  This standard can be applied just as easily to the elderly, handicapped and infirm.

Your article puts you in a minority of abortion extremists (even to the extreme of Roe v. Wade) who believe abortion should be unlimited, that it is acceptable to dismember a 6 month old fetus in the womb for convenience or because he has a handicap.  This is not shared by the American people as a whole.  In fact, a recent poll shows only 30% of Americans supporting late term abortion and opposing the Pain Capable Act.

Choosing an odd (and possibly true) comment from your opposition to represent the majority of Americans who would rather see a baby delivered and given a chance than pulled limb from limb or injected with poison is deceptive and underhanded.

I implore you to read the Gosnell story, the federal transcripts for the Born Alive or Partial Birth Abortion Ban and understand what it is you are supporting.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

Speaking of dumb and bizarre arguments, your bare assertion that fetuses can't/don't feel pain is in the same vein.  Are you an expert?  On what basis to dismiss this out of hand?  

I don't care if they feel pain or not, it's not a reason to prohibit abortions, but we shouldn't flippantly dismiss that abortions are morally complex.  The fetus has some degree of personhood (not enough to trump the rights of the mother in my view)  and to dismiss that is dumb and irresponsible. 

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

Should christians really be trying to protect and preserve the life of a being that is whacking off inside of his own mother?  That sounds like a one way ticket to the firey place to this gentle reader.

roo_ster
roo_ster

Thanks to Anna Merlan, we now know the sound track that accompanies infanticide is the howling of hyenas and braying of asses.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

I just hope a burgess masturbation tape doesn't leak. Npit.

Americano
Americano

I guess if a Congressman says something we don't agree with, or find to be stupid, we can go ahead and kill a bunch of babies!

animas
animas

Did any of the "discerning readers" here actually  listen to the Congressman's short  commentary ?  He stated his credentials tastefully  as a former  practicing OB-GYN and his observations which were admittedly anecdotal and empirical.  He made no pretense of supportive scientific reference -as inferred in the foolish mocking article above.((The words "masturbation" and "shitty" are the literary contribution of  Ms. Merlan ,BTW ) I guess I am confused by the unpleasant  rambling  (bullying?) Merlan screed above.  Whats wrong Merlan?  You seemed to be conveniently ( morally/ethically selective?) silent about Gosnell- an OB-GYN with a 2 million dollar a year cash practice, preying on defenseless women- carving up their fetuses and saving parts in jars as on site  grisly souvenirs-(killing a few women in a filthy clinic-staffed by teenagers "trained as anesthetists" was just an added by product of Gosnell's  ideal "medical practice").  Where was your "insightful" blistering  column on that mess? What did Burgess ever do to you except get an extraordinarily difficult to earn advanced medical  degree, competently deliver babies and have regard for the lives he came in contact with.  Your opinions are unduly  one sided,overblown and extreme given the societal rot you chose to ignore in your own back yard.

Jamie
Jamie

Ann Althouse reminds us why Unfair Park will always be the smallest town in America:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2013/06/whats-so-ugly-about-mockery.html

"The Congressman described the fetus's humanity: It does something that we are invited to recognize as part of our shared human condition and therefore to appreciate its reality and to feel empathy.

The mockers are taking this delicately stated image of the fetus touching or holding its genitals and turning it into a picture of a baby masturbating — "jerking off," "spanking the monkey" — and asking us to laugh at it, even as we are expected to accept its being killed. The very thing that the Congressman used to call us to think of it as human, they would laugh at before killing it.

If you are going to take it into your hands to kill a human being, you don't diminish it and laugh at it first. For example, an execution — assuming it is permitted at all, as it is in the United States — is carried out with somber respect. Even as this human being will be killed, we must demonstrate that we understand the profundity of what we are doing.

Picture executions where the condemned person is subjected to mockery first. (That was done to Jesus, by the way.) Some would say any death penalty is wrong, just as some would say that any abortion is wrong. But few would say that ridiculing the condemned being — dehumanizing him — is acceptable.

In their eagerness to deny that the fetus is a person, abortion rights proponents — some of them — are making sport of it.

This reminds me of Kermit Gosnell joking about a large fetus, saying that it was big enough to walk to the bus stop. Think about why that was considered shocking by many people."

Russ Coffman
Russ Coffman

Maybe he's speaking from personal recollections.

Mo.Roney
Mo.Roney

The m-word is a capital offense in the Bible. Wouldn't that argue in favor of abortion in those cases?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Can we move FB comments back to the bottom of the comments section where they used to be.  they are so confusing and the replies are out of order and they typically just suck

Matt Loria
Matt Loria

Texas Congressman: Masturbating Fetuses Are Proof That Fetal Pain Is Real... proves that he himself should have been aborted.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Don't be fooled, if you watch the video you'll see that no-one really said anything stupid. Anna made it up.

animas
animas

@Americano  It's OK by the readership here if all that occurs in enlightened blue states over several decades with the benefits of saving parts in jars...

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@animas Yes, supporting the right for women to have abortions is endorsement of medical malpractice and all the worst sins of abortionists, aborting mothers should ALL be laid at the feet of those who see limits to the reach and scope of Gov;t.  Your argument is a perfect self contradictory piece, and you are an idiot.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Jamie who gives a shit if the condemned criminal is treated with respect?  The Lynched were not treated with dignity. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Jamie 

I went and reread the article after reading your copy-paste of Althouse's masterpiece, and nowhere in Anna's story did I find the terms "jerking off" or "spanking the monkey", these terms were introduced into the conversation by Althouse, not Merlan.

There is so much straw in this post that I'm surprised it hasn't burst into flames from coming into contact with the electrons of the internet.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@Jamie If you're going to kill someone, it helps to dehumanize them, or it,  first.

crimjunkie
crimjunkie

@Jamie "[A]n execution . . . is carried out with somber respect."

Not really.

In sponsoring an act to speed up the time between conviction and execution in Florida, a state which has executed 77 people since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-70s but has also exonerated 24 people sentenced to die, state legislator Matt Gaetz explained why it would be a good thing to kill people more quickly:  "Only God can judge.  But we sure can set up the meeting."  (Source:  http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/06/timely_justice_act_florida_s_horrifying_plan_to_make_it_quicker_and_easier.html)

Unsurprisingly, according to Mr. Gaetz's website (http://mattgaetz.com/issues), he is anti-abortion:  "Matt Gaetz is pro-life; he knows that life begins at conception, and that sometimes you have to speak for those who don’t have a voice."

Sure glad he didn't ridicule or dehumanize the (sometimes unjustly) condemned with his yippee-ki-yay kill-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out rationale for his speed-up-the-death-sentence bill.

dfwheathen
dfwheathen

@Jamie The mocking is towards Congressman Michael Burgess. Idiot.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Mo.Roney not at all clear.  If it were such an issue, why did Jesus say so little about it? 

casiepierce
casiepierce

@ScottsMerkin Because people are assholes and instead of replying wit the reply button, they start a whole new post. Also, you can move it from "newest" to "oldest" for continuity.

LeMeh
LeMeh

@ScottsMerkinMaybe we can move your comments there as well because they "typically just suck" too...ZING!!!

animas
animas

The AMA is not well regarded by the profession mainly due to its thinly veiled commercialism .  The AMA derives most of its operating income by selling coding materials for the purposes of insurance reimbursement  and supporting govt initiatives which allow it to further its commercial  objectives.(hardly a noble or  academic scientific mission ).  Your credibility  is not enhanced by citing the AMA.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ruddski

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” said Burgess, a former obstetrician-gynecologist. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

yep, that's just plain stupid. even anna, as smart as she is, can't make up that level of stupidity.

animas
animas

@scottindallas @animas  I think that it is reasonable to request that before going off  in a half baked emotional tirade,   that you actually consider what was said instead of  producing  several paragraphs of   self serving bogus nonsense.  As for "limiting the reach and scope of Govt."  I should think that the NSA flap would have instructed you that that train left the station a long time ago.  The govt. is doing a high tech  colonsocopy on naive fools like you everyday.  (I guess being a top commenter means you can call anyone who disagrees with you an"idiot"-- how very funny).

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

@ruddski @Jamie the Holy bible says thou shalt not kill...you ultra cons are for killing death row inmates..therefore you dont follow the bible and should not be allowed to parade it out whenever it suits your argument.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@LeMeh thanks for the compliment, cant tell if this is your first time here or your 30th different name

animas
animas

Hilarious.  Now you can tell me which "professional orgs/groups" publish " studies and scientific research done/conducted by the AMA",(in your own words) and the locations where AMA conducts it's "scientific research"... I need another good laugh today...

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@animas

are you freaking serious? do you have any idea how these research projects are done? almost every single study is done in multiple locations by researchers affiliated with multiple institutions. They utilize professional orgs/groups to publish their studies.

oh, apparently you do not have any idea....

my god, putz is too soft a term.

animas
animas

 (sigh)--You do understand dont you that the studies submitted to JAMA are not conducted at the AMA or JAMA offices and are not performed by the AMA and JAMA?   Try not to hurt yourself by thinking about where the scientific research published in JAMA might occur...

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@animas

well gee whiz, doctors certainly "engage in commercial practices", so why the heck would we ever listen to them?

bwhahahaha.

the AMA "doesn't conduct scientific research"? you need to call them and let them know that JAMA is fictional....

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=201429

wow, you are such a putz.

animas
animas

The AMA is a medical society which engages in commercial practices.  As such, IT does not conduct scientific research and there would be no need to "refute" its "studies".

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@animas

ahh, I see, you can't refute the study done by the AMA so you resort to attacking the AMA instead.

what, you're going to attack Harvard Med next because you can't refute their study either?

your credibility is not enhanced by this thinly veiled attempt to change the focus of the discussion.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@animas

no, what is "pathetic" is the Congressman asserting that a 15 week old fetus "pleasures" himself in the womb by rubbing his undeveloped genitalia.

such riducle is completely warranted as it is not in any way based on a "specious interpertation" but rather the quoted words of the congressman.

animas
animas

You have irrefutable evidence that your proclivity for holding a decent well educated  man to unwarranted ridicule based upon the "author's" specious interpretation of his opinions is pathetic.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@animas

we have the irrefutable evidence that michael burgess clearly is NOT a real genius.... (lol)

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@paulpsycho78 @ruddski @Jamie The "Holy Bible" celebrates genocide and more atrocity than any would condone.  Those who support and believe in the Bible, clearly haven't read it. 

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