A new study has found that human fetuses do not feel pain before the age of 24 weeks.
The study was commissioned by the Government and carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
According to the report, nerve connections in the brain are not sufficiently formed to allow pain perception at that stage, and the fetus remains in a state of "continuous sleep-like unconsciousness" even after 24 weeks.
The findings suggest late abortions, which are allowed in cases of serious abnormalities or risk to the mother's health, may not result in fetal suffering.
"Connections from the periphery to the cortex are not intact before 24 weeks of gestation," Sky News quoted the report as saying on the issue of pain perception.
"As most neuroscientists believe the cortex is necessary for pain perception, it can be concluded the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior to this gestation.
"There is increasing evidence that the fetus never experiences a state of true wakefulness in utero and is kept, by the presence of its chemical environment, in a continuous sleep-like unconsciousness or sedation," it stated.