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Utah Senate Debates Fetal Anesthesia Bill

Utah's Senate on Friday afternoon will debate a proposal that would require doctors to administer anesthesia before an abortion performed after 20 weeks gestation, based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point.

State law currently gives women the choice to have anesthesia for the fetus to reduce potential pain during abortion. Anesthesia would be mandatory under the legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Curt Bramble.

Bramble says he initially sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks entirely, but he changed course after the legislature's attorneys warned him that any such measure would likely be unconstitutional.

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He says this bill focuses on reducing pain for the fetus.

The proposal says "substantial medical evidence" shows a 20-week-old fetus is capable of experiencing pain. But medical experts and physicians say those claims are unfounded.