Congressman Michael Burgess, a former OB/GYN, said Monday that he opposes abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy because male fetuses can put "their hand between their legs" for pleasure.
“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” said the Texas Republican.
"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?"
Burgess' remarks spread online where the idea of "fetal masturbation" took hold -- an idea many found not only distasteful, but impossible.
The rationale for the Republican bill, which advanced through the House Judiciary last week on a near-total party-line vote, is one oft-disputed study that asserts fetuses can feel pain as early as 20 weeks after conception.
In 2010, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Britain said of fetal awareness that, “Connections from the periphery to the cortex are not intact before 24 weeks of gestation and, as most neuroscientists believe that the cortex is necessary for pain perception, it can be concluded that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior to this gestation.”
The 20-week ban was initially meant to apply only to the District of Columbia, but the arrest and murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell, who ran an illegal abortion clinic in Philadelphia, has given conservatives new momentum.
The White House has already vowed to veto the abortion bill if it should pass Senate.