Last year, Utah became the first state in the nation to pass a law requiring abortion practitioners to administer anesthesia to late-term unborn babies prior to doing the abortion.
“I guess I’m breaking the law, but I don’t know how to not break it because no one would tell me,” abortion practitioner and activist Leah Torres told the AP.
The Utah abortion practitioners who spoke with the AP all said the state has not provided enough answers or guidance about what it is expecting under the law.
The new law, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in March 2016, requires that abortion doctors give anesthesia to “eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child” in abortions at 20 weeks or later. Exceptions are allowed for women at risk of irreversible injury or death, and for unborn babies diagnosed with fatal conditions.
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Here’s more from the report:
Nine months later, the only licensed clinic providing those abortions in the state says no changes have been made in how doctors perform the procedures.
The handful of doctors who do the abortions at the clinic run by the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah are trying to comply with the law passed last May but it contained no specific guidance on how to do so, said Karrie Galloway, the group’s CEO.
Torres said she contacted the state attorney general’s office to ask for more details, but they just recommended that she speak to a lawyer.
According to the report, one question that abortion practitioners have is whether giving anesthesia to the mother counts as compliance because some of the drugs pass to the unborn child.
Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League said abortion activists don’t like the law because it recognizes babies in the womb as separate human beings.
“What’s happening here is that these abortionists do not want to have to acknowledge the value of the life of the unborn child and the pain that those children experience,” Scheidler said.
Abortion activists claim unborn babies do not feel pain until later than 20 weeks, but a growing body of evidence indicates that they can feel pain by 20 weeks, if not earlier.
An anesthesiology professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Ray Paschall is an expert in fetal surgery and anesthesiology. In 2013, he said their surgical team began noticing babies in the womb as early as 21 weeks were responding in pain. This prompted him to increase anesthesia for the unborn babies in future surgeries. Since he began increasing the dose, he said he has not seem the same pain responses in unborn babies.
Other medical experts also confirmed that anesthesia is routine for fetal surgeries that are performed to heal babies in the womb. Abortion, which kills the baby rather than heals, is the exception.
The Utah law has been controversial, even among pro-lifers. Some pro-life advocates argue that methods of making abortion more humane and acceptable miss the point, since a painless killing still results in death. Other pro-lifers argue that as long as abortion is legal, the baby should be spared unnecessary pain.