Thursday, March 31, 2016

Utah Requires Anesthesia for Abortions at 20 Weeks

Los Angeles Times (March 29, 2016): Utah governor signs bill requiring abortion anesthesia, by Hallie Golden:

On Monday, Utah's governor signed a bill that would require doctors to give anesthesia to women having abortions at 20 weeks or later.  The law will be the first of its kind and has been criticized by doctors for increasing health risks to women by giving them unnecessary heavy sedation.  According to the bill's sponsors, the purpose of the law is to prevent the fetus from feeling pain.  However, there is no medical evidence that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.   In order for anesthesia to reach the fetus, a pregnant woman would have to be given "general anesthesia which would make her unconscious and likely require a breathing tube, or a heavy dose of narcotics."

Despite the law's alleged purpose to avoid fetal pain, it does not apply to women who have abortions because their life is at risk or because the fetus is not viable outside the womb.  Because of the law's broad definition of abortion 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 the physician," the law could be interpreted to apply to women who seek to induce labor early due to a problem with the pregnancy or because the woman is past her due date.

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