SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday he "conceptually has no problem" with legislation being drafted to require anesthesia be administered to a fetus before an abortion.
"You know, abortion is a very emotional issue," Herbert told reporters. "Rather than get into the abortion debate, I guess the question is: If we're going to have abortion, what is the most humane way to do it?"
The governor said he doesn't know at what point a fetus may feel pain but noted that emergency medical personnel routinely check for a heartbeat to determine if someone is alive.
"Fetuses have a heartbeat after about five weeks. And the idea of just being callous about that should cause all of humanity concern," Herbert said, no matter where they stand on abortion.
If fetuses do feel pain, the governor said he has no problem with Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, "wanting to eliminate that discomfort," although he would still have to review Bramble's bill once it's drafted before taking a position.
Bramble told KSL Newsradio his intention is to offer protection from "the pain inflicted at the time that that unborn child's life is taken." He said when the requirement would be imposed will be based on standards set by other states.
Last year, Montana lawmakers passed a similar law requiring fetal anesthesia for surgeries, including abortions, after 20 weeks of gestation. That law was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat.
As of last August, a dozen states had approved a ban on abortion after 20 weeks to protect "unborn children who are capable of feeling pain," according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, has described Bramble's proposed requirement as a political decision about a medical procedure.
"Obviously, he wants to insert his political opinion in a private decision between a woman and her physician," she told The Associated Press.
Bramble said he wanted to prohibit abortions "beyond the point of development where a child reacts to pain," but he was told by legislative attorneys that would be unconstitutional.