Utah became the first state to require doctors to administer anesthesia to women receiving an abortion after 20-weeks on Monday when the governor signed Senate Bill 234 [text]. The bill was signed into law along with 55 other bills [press release] by Governor Gary Herbert. Previously, anesthesia was a woman’s choice and abortions are still prohibited [Huffington Post report] in Utah after the fetus is viable around 22 weeks. Those who support the law maintain that anesthesia would prevent fetuses from suffering during abortion. Those against the law, including doctors in Utah, maintain that there is no conclusive evidence that fetuses are able to feel anything at that point in pregnancy and the use of anesthesia could create complications. Women who must have an abortion because their life is at risk from the pregnancy would not be required [NYT report] to use anesthesia under this law.
Abortion procedures and reproductive rights issues [JURIST backgrounder] have been controversial topics throughout the US. Last week Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a controversial bill [JURIST report] banning abortions motivated by concerns of the fetus’ gender, race or potential disabilities. Earlier this month a district court judge blocked [JURIST report] Arkansas from enforcing a bill mandating abortion pill providers to follow US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and requiring hospital admittance privileges to handle complications. Also this month West Virginia lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto to enact a new law [JURIST report] that prevents the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure, widely held to be the safest second-trimester abortion method. South Dakota’s governor signed a bill [JURIST report] that bans abortions after 20 weeks. Last month the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed [JURIST report] a lower court decision upholding a law that restricts use of medication abortion drugs.