Utah Abortions from 20 weeks must use anesthesia to protect the unborn from pain in death

Utah Governor Gary Herbert talks about the state's economic development in Salt Lake City, Utah January 11, 2012. | REUTERS / Jim Urquhart

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a bill requiring doctors to administer anesthesia to women having abortion at 20 weeks of gestation or later.

On Monday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed the abortion anesthesia bill for procedures conducted at 20 weeks of later, on the grounds that a fetus can already feel pain at that age of gestation. In a statement, his spokesman Jon Cox said the governor believes that any pain caused to an unborn child must be minimized, the Associated Press reports.

"The governor is adamantly pro-life," Cox said. "He believes in not only erring on the side of life, but also minimizing any pain that may be caused to an unborn child."

Gov. Herbert's move makes Utah the first state to pass such a bill. In 2015, Montana passed a similar law, but the state governor vetoed it. Twelve other states prohibit abortion to be performed after 20 weeks of gestation, while others --- including Utah --- let women choose to have anesthesia during the procedure, USA Today relays.

In Utah, a woman must undergo personal counseling at least 72 hours before an abortion is carried out and before she makes her final decision. The state also funds the procedure for victims of rape and incest, and where the mother's life is at risk.

The new law targets women who opt to have elective abortion 20 weeks into their pregnancy. However, it would not apply to those required to undergo the procedure because of a risk to their life, or in a situation where the fetus will not be able to survive outside the womb.

Sen. Curt Bramble, who sponsored the bill, said the measure is all about protecting the "sanctity of life" and those who have no voice. He also called abortion an "abomination."

The measure signed by the Utah governor has been met by concerns from some local doctors. There are those who think that fetal anesthesia is not necessary and that it may only serve to put women at greater risk. But supporters of the law point out that a fetus must be protected from pain, and that even convicts on death row and animals facing euthanasia are given anesthesia.