Governor signs abortion anesthesia bill

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The governor signed a bill Monday that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.

FILE -Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks with reporters during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The governor signed a bill Monday, March 28, 2016, that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. The bill signed by Republican Gov. Herbert is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point. Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 17, 2016 | Photo by Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, St. George News
FILE — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks with reporters during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The governor signed a bill Monday, March 28, 2016, that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. The bill signed by Republican Gov. Herbert is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point. Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 17, 2016 | Photo by Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, St. George News

The bill signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point.

Many doctors in Utah and across the country are concerned that the requirement could increase the health risks to women by giving them unnecessary heavy sedation in order to protect a fetus from pain that it may or may not feel.

Dr. Sean Esplin of Intermountain Healthcare in Utah said anesthesia or an analgesic would need to go through the woman in order to reach the fetus. Doctors could give a woman general anesthesia, which would make her unconscious and likely require a breathing tube, or a heavy dose of narcotics.

No other U.S. state has passed this same law, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the abortion-rights nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Montana lawmakers passed a similar law in 2015 requiring fetal anesthesia before surgeries, including abortions, performed after 20 or more weeks of gestation, but its Democratic governor vetoed the measure.

Twelve states ban abortions after around 20 weeks of gestation, while a handful of other states give women the option of having anesthesia.

Previous Utah law gave women the choice to have anesthesia during an abortion.

The new law by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, targets a small subset of women who have elective abortions beginning at 20 weeks. State law normally allows abortions until viability, which is at about 22 weeks.

But it could affect women in many other medical situations.

Utah law defines abortions in part as “the intentional termination or attempted termination of human pregnancy after implantation of a fertilized ovum through a medical procedure carried out by a physician or through a substance used under the direction of a physician.”

David Turok of the University of Utah’s obstetrics and gynecology department said that could apply to instances in which a woman is past her due date so the doctor induces labor or there’s a problem with the pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, so it’s safer to deliver the baby early. These common procedures could now require general anesthesia, he said.

You never give those medicines if you don’t have to,” Turok said.

Laura Bunker of the conservative group United Families International said if there is any chance a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, doctors should do everything possible to make sure they are comfortable.

The new law would not apply to women who must have an abortion because their life is at risk or the fetus will not survive outside the womb.

Utah Medical Association CEO Michelle McOmber said her organization feels neutral toward the legislation. The association convinced Bramble to change its language from saying a fetus “is capable of experiencing pain,” to it “may be capable of experiencing pain.” She said the association would have preferred that the proposal stated it is inconclusive whether or not the fetus feels pain.

Bramble initially sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks entirely, but he changed course after the Legislature’s attorneys warned him that any such measure would likely be unconstitutional.

Written by: HALLIE GOLDEN, Associated Press

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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8 Comments

  • Common Sense March 29, 2016 at 6:56 am

    and at just 24 weeks (14 days later) it is possible to have the baby prematurely and have it survive outside the womb. I feel better though knowing that at least before they rip it out of its mothers body they give it pain meds first. It’s like hospice for fetus’s, right?

    • RealMcCoy March 29, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Correct.
      It’s a sad time when you can legally hack up or kill a baby, but get arrested for leaving your dog in the car on a hot summer day.
      #PrioritiesWhereAreTheyNow?
      #It’sMurderButShhhDon’tCallItThat

      • ladybugavenger March 30, 2016 at 7:44 pm

        Get arrested for leaving a dog in the car. But no charges for cooking a baby to death in a hot car in hurricane. And it’s legal to murder and an unborn child (new and improved with anesthesia). Geeeeeeeze

        • RealMcCoy March 31, 2016 at 1:23 pm

          That all depends on your ward, and how blonde your hair is, I think.

  • Not_So_Much March 29, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Now how about not one cent of my tax money is used for this ‘process’ at any time anywhere. Those who believe in this can support it with their money. God help us.

  • .... March 29, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Blah blah blah

  • Sapphire March 29, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Maybe they should hack up the mothers and keep the babies. Oh that sounds barbaric when the situation is reversed. What has happened to the human race? Mothers are supposed to protect their young, not kill them.

  • Accountable March 29, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    What a contradictory, hypocritical load of b.s.

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