The Foetal Sentience Committee Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Lord Moylan (Conservative). It is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 22 March 2024. 

The bill would require the secretary of state to establish a Foetal Sentience Committee. The committee’s purpose would be to provide evidence-based, scientific expertise on the sentience of the human foetus in light of developments in scientific and medical knowledge. It would advise the government on the formulation of relevant policy and legislation. The bill would require the secretary of state to respond to the committee’s advice on formulating relevant policy or legislation. 

There are ongoing scientific, medical and ethical debates about foetal sentience and foetal pain and the implications for issues such as pain relief for the foetus during in utero surgery and the law and practice around abortion. Expert views have differed regarding at what stage of development a foetus can feel pain. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) published a review in December 2022 which concluded that “evidence indicates that the possibility of pain perception before 28 weeks of gestation is unlikely”. The government has tended to refer to an earlier RCOG review carried out in 2010 when responding to parliamentary questions about foetal sentience and foetal pain. It does not appear to have commented on the latest RCOG review.


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