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The Utah Senate voted Monday to require anesthesia for a fetus during an abortion any time after 20 weeks of gestation.
"This will require that if we are going to take the life of an unborn child … then anesthesia would be required to protect the child from the infliction of pain at the time their life is forfeit," said Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, sponsor of SB234.
The Senate voted 20-3 to pass it and sent it to the House.
Under current Utah law, abortion providers must provide information to a patient about whether a fetus may feel pain after 20 weeks of gestation, communicate the medical risks associated with the administration of anesthesia and offer anesthesia before the procedure. SB234 would make anesthesia mandatory.
The Senate adopted one amendment to the bill, making clear that the anesthesia is not mandated in cases where it could endanger the health of the mother and does not affect abortions in cases where the fetus is not viable.
Senate Democratic leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said he received a letter from a woman who went through 12 hours of labor to abort a nonviable fetus at 20 weeks, but was comforted that she could hold the baby after birth for 45 minutes before it died.
Davis contended the bill would not allow that and anesthesia would kill the baby before birth. Bramble said the amendment added would exempt the requirement for anesthesia in such circumstances, allowing it only in cases of an elective abortion with a healthy mother and fetus.
"If we could prohibit all abortions except in the rarest of circumstances, if we could overturn Roe v. Wade, I would be a proud sponsor of that bill," Bramble said. He added the state should at least ensure that a fetus feels no pain.
Before initial debate on the bill last Friday, Planned Parenthood of Utah staged a demonstration outside the Senate chamber with women in pink hospital gowns holding signs with slogans such as "Keep Politics Out of the Exam Room" and "Senator Bramble Is NOT My Doctor."
In a hearing last week, Leah Torres, an OB-GYN, testified, "The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has publicly stated that this kind of legislation is not based on science, nor is it in line with standard medical ethics."
She added, "It deeply concerns me that a legislature would have the audacity to tell me what medicines I must or must not give my patients. ... This legislation pretends to know what is best for an individual and their family, as if they are not already going through enough deciding how to proceed."