GOP lawmaker cites fetal masturbation in defense of late-term abortion ban

The House's proposed ban on late-term abortions is justified because fetuses masturbate as early as 15 weeks, proving they experience physical feeling, according to a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a former OB/GYN, suggested Monday that he has witnessed "movements that are purposeful" in fetuses entering the second trimester.

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby," Burgess said. "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?”

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Burgess made the comment during debate in the House Rules Committee over Rep. Trent Franks's (R-Ariz.) abortion bill, which is due for a floor vote Tuesday.

The measure would ban nearly all abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy on the disputed premise that fetuses can feel pain at that stage of development.

A similar measure from Franks was opposed last year by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which said fetal pain is unlikely before the third trimester, or 27 weeks of pregnancy.

Limited published evidence of what appears to be fetal masturbation has noted its occurrence at 32 weeks gestation, in the third trimester.