Memo to Speaker Pelosi: Science Has Changed Significantly Since 1973

Charlotte Lozier Institute  

Pelosi Appears Unaware of Advancements in Ultrasound, Fetal Diagnosis, Fetal Pain, and Prenatal Surgery Since Roe


Washington, D.C.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi incorrectly claimed on Sunday’s Face the Nation that “science hasn’t changed” while discussing her political views on abortion and the Dobbs late-term abortion case currently before the Supreme Court.


Dr. Tara Sander Lee, senior fellow and director of life sciences at Charlotte Lozier Institute, responded:


“It’s unfortunate that after three years of telling America to ‘follow the science,’ Speaker Pelosi is now ignoring the science because it’s inconvenient for her extreme political position of legalizing abortion until the moment of birth.  Has Speaker Pelosi been asleep for the past 50 years?


“Major scientific advancements have revolutionized ultrasound technology, fetal diagnosis, and the science of fetal pain.  Doctors are now treating babies in utero before birth and at the same gestational age that Speaker Pelosi proclaims a right to kill.  There have also been miraculous advancements in our ability to care for extremely premature babies, and all of this has occurred since Roe.”


The evidence of major scientific advancement since 1973 is clear:


  1. The black and white dots of an ultrasound before Roe could barely identify the head of an unborn child in the womb (see images below), much less identify the heartbeat at six weeks, show the child sucking his thumb at 15 weeks, or display her eyes, nose, lips, and behaviors with absolute clarity. A history lesson on advancements in ultrasound is available here.


  1. Advancements in ultrasound led to a better understanding of fetal pain. Stuart Derbyshire, whose outdated 2010 study is cited in the abortion industry’s response brief, has for many years been considered a “leading voice against the likelihood of fetal pain,” according to the New York Times.  However, in response to a growing body of scientific evidence, Dr. Derbyshire in 2020 published an updated peer-reviewed paper in BMJ’s Journal of Medical Ethics concluding that the cortex is not necessary for pain perception and that “the evidence, and a balanced reading of that evidence, points toward an immediate and unreflective pain experience mediated by the developing function of the nervous system from as early as 12 weeks.”
  2. Advancements in prenatal imaging and surgical technology, combined with discoveries in anesthesia for relieving pain, were pivotal in ushering in the modern era of fetal surgery. Today, unborn babies are routinely treated inside the womb, receiving anesthesia and other pain relief like any other patient, from as early as 15 weeks.  Review the science here and here.


Watch 4D ultrasound video of a baby (third trimester) reacting to an injection of anesthetic prior to surgery in utero.


  1. Medical advances since 1973 make it possible to save extremely premature babies at earlier and earlier ages, making the Supreme Court precedent of “viability” both outdated and fluid. With the skills of caring physicians and the availability of new science, viability has moved to ever-younger ages, from 24 to 28 weeks in 1973 (Roe) to 21 or 22 weeks today.  Just last November, Guinness World Records named Curtis, who was born more than four months premature (just halfway through a normal pregnancy at 21 weeks and 1 day), as the world’s most premature infant to live to a first birthday.


“The only things that haven’t changed since Roe are Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat party’s advocacy for taxpayer funded abortion on demand until birth,” said Dr. Tara Sander Lee.  “Follow the science?  Absolutely, because science reveals the humanity of the unborn child like never before.”


To review the most accurate and up-to-date science of human prenatal development, visit Charlotte Lozier Institute’s Voyage of Life resource.


Charlotte Lozier Institute was launched in 2011 as the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony List. CLI is a hub for research and public policy analysis on some of the most pressing issues facing the United States and nations around the world. The Institute is named for a feminist physician known for her commitment to the sanctity of human life and equal career and educational opportunities for women.




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