A bill recently passed by the Utah State Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Gary R. Herbert will require women terminating a pregnancy at 20 weeks or more to be given anesthesia or painkillers to anesthetize the fetus.
The doctors aren’t very happy about the “fetal anesthesia.”
Most medical practitioners and researchers agree that the fetus does not have the neurological connections necessary until further along in the pregnancy to feel the pain.
So, whereas this concern for the fetus is needless, it may also put women’s health at risk by forcing them to take unspecified painkillers.
“You’re asking me to invent a procedure that doesn’t have any research to back it up,” says Dr. Leah Torres, an obstetrician-gynecologist. “You want me to experiment on my patients.”
Torres, an active abortion activist, has other issues with the law as well.
“The law does not tell me how to provide this anesthesia. Do I put my patient under general anesthesia? Do I insert a long needle into her abdomen? Both of those options carry far more risk than current evidence-based practices in abortion care. They are also expensive. Who is responsible to pay for these unnecessary procedures that increase risk and cost without medical benefit?” she wrote in March 2016.
Dr. Anne Davis, the consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Health, believes no ethical doctor is going to give powerful drugs to a patient if it could harm the patient's health.
"Imagine that I sit down with a patient and tell her what she can expect and how I'm going to take care of her and somehow I work in, 'Oh, by the way, the state has told me that I have to give this to you?' She questions, 'Why?' And I say, 'There's no benefit to you, but there will be additional risk.'"
"How as a doctor do I live with that? This law is about stopping abortion," Davis added. "This is just another measure to deter women from getting abortions."
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a fetus does not possess the part of the brain that can process pain until the third trimester.