Utah has become the first state to enact a unique new law requiring that abortion clinics give anesthesia to unborn babies at 20 weeks or later before they are aborted.
Pro-life Gov. Gary Herbert signed the law on Monday, CBS News reports. The law will “eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child” in abortions starting at 20 weeks. The law includes exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk or if the unborn baby will not survive outside the womb, according to the report.
“The governor is adamantly pro-life. He believes in not only erring on the side of life, but also minimizing any pain that may be caused to an unborn child,” a spokesman for Herbert said in a statement.
Twenty weeks is the point when most scientific evidence shows unborn babies can feel intense pain, though some research indicates they may feel pain even earlier. As early as 18 weeks, an unborn child injected with a needle releases stress hormones, just as adults do when experiencing pain. Hormone levels in those babies decrease when pain-relievers are supplied, LifeNews previously reported.
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The new law is the first of its kind in the U.S., updating a previous state law that gave women the option of anesthesia during an abortion, according to Reuters. A similar measure passed in Montana in 2015 but was vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor.
Utah state Sen. Curt Bramble, who sponsored the legislation, said Utah protects death row inmates and animals being euthanized from painful deaths, and it should do the same for unborn babies who are being aborted. Bramble previously said he would ban abortion altogether if he could, but his current legislation is a step in that direction.
“The sanctity of life, protecting those who have no voice — that’s what this (bill) is about,” Bramble said. “I think the message is clear that abortion is an abomination.”
Planned Parenthood Utah opposed the bill, claiming that it would insert a political opinion into “a woman’s private medical decision.” They also questioned the well-established evidence that unborn babies can feel pain at that point.
However, as previously reported on LifeNews, there is some debate even within the pro-life community about the message of such bills.
Pro-lifers agree on the fact that unborn babies feel pain, a reality of abortion that has been previously reported at LifeNews. Dr. David Prentice of the Charlotte Lozier Institute said science conclusively shows that “young babies still in the womb at 20 weeks after conception, and probably even earlier, do indeed feel pain, and in fact, may feel more intense pain than a newborn or an adult.”
Prentice explained that unborn babies may feel excruciating pain during abortions because they have a high density of nerve receptors but lack pathways to tone down pain.
However, some pro-lifers 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.
More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America, and many states have introduced bills to protect them from painful, late-term abortions. According to the National Right to Life Committee, at least 12 states have passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn babies from abortions after 20 weeks because they can feel pain. Bills also have been introduced in several other states and in U.S. Congress.
A national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger. Only 30% said they would oppose such a law.
A November 2014 poll from Quinnipiac found that 60 percent of Americans support legislation limiting abortions after 20 weeks, including 56 percent of Independents and 46 percent of Democrats.