Rep. Michael Burgess Says 15-Week-Old Male Fetuses Pleasure Themselves

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ABC News' Brooke Kettler reports:

At what age do young boys begin sexual self-exploration? As early as 15 weeks in utero, according to Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas.

"Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful," said Burgess, a former obstetrician-gynecologist. "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?"

The tea party congressman, 62, made the awkward argument during a House Rules Committee hearing today about H.R. bill 1797, which would ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization.

Burgess, who says that fetal movements can point to pleasurable sexual sensation, argues that abortion should be limited to the first 15 weeks, rather than the proposed 20.

Cleveland Dr. Lisa Perriera of University Hospitals Case Medical Center counters that a fetus' hand between its legs is nothing more than "practicing using their muscles."

"Three studies have been done in human fetuses to examine the development of connections between nerves," Perriera said. "And we don't think those connections start to form until somewhere between 23 and 30 weeks gestation."

The congressman's statement also raises the question of why female fetuses' hands apparently stay above the belt, and Dr. Perriera believes she has an explanation.

"It's all boiling down to males again," she said, "while this legislation is targeting women and limiting women's rights."

Burgess' remarks come a week after Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., made clumsy comments about the frequency of pregnancy from rape.