An unprecedented law went into effect Tuesday in Utah requiring doctors to numb the fetus before an abortion if the mother is at least 20 weeks along.
State legislators chose the five-month threshold because that’s the stage of development when unborn babies can feel pain. Abortionists say they’re unsure how to carry out the new law, but regardless, they must now administer anesthesia to the fetus through the mother.
Abortion doctors must also inform the mother before the procedure that “substantial” scientific evidence shows the procedure could inflict pain on the child. If the woman goes through with the procedure, the painkiller requirement aims to “eliminate or alleviate organic pain in the unborn child,” the law states.
Doctors commonly use what’s called a dilation and evacuation method for later-term abortions. The abortionist artificially dilates the woman’s cervix, then simply reaches into the womb with a metal forceps and pulls the fetus out piece by piece. Lastly, the abortionist vacuums or scrapes out any leftover flesh and blood to make sure no remains cause an infection in the woman. (RELATED: Here’s Exactly How Researchers Get Their Hands On Aborted Baby Parts)
Utah is the first state to pass this kind of abortion law. Montana passed a similar painkiller requirement in 2015, but the Democratic governor vetoed the bill and it never took effect.
State Sen. Curt Bramble, the Republican who sponsored the legislation, told USA Today it’s consistent with other state policies that go to great lengths to prevent suffering in both animals and humans.
“We go to extraordinary lengths in Utah to prevent the pain of an individual sentenced to death,” Bramble said. “With euthanasia, we make every effort to not inflict pain on that animal. … [Mandating anesthesia] is consistent with other policies we have in the state of Utah.”
Critics of the bill along with apprehensive doctors say there is no science laying out how to administer anesthesia to a fetus in the womb, reports the Los Angeles Times. One told the LA Times the law “criminalizes” abortionists.
A number of states have banned abortions outright at 20 weeks, and Congressional Republicans moved a similar ban they referred to as the “pain-capable abortion ban” through the House and Senate 2015. Democrats blocked the ban in the Senate.
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