SALT LAKE CITY -- A law being watched across the country, went into effect in Utah Monday.
The law requires pain medication be given to a fetus when performing an abortion after 20 weeks. Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, sponsored the legislation. He called it a landmark moment providing “legal statutory protection while still in the womb.”
Some doctors say complying with the new law is impossible.
"I'm going to cross my fingers that I'm not breaking the law,” said Dr. Leah Torres, a local OBGYN who provides abortions for her patients.
Torres is an outspoken critic of the law, saying there is not standard medical practice for providing pain relief to a fetus.
"Legislators have told doctors they must perform a procedure that doesn't exist and the patients are not allowed to refuse that procedure,” Torres said, who argues a fetus does not feel pain until the third trimester.
When a fetus feels pain and senses suffering, has been debated for years. In 2013, Maureen Condic, Ph.D. a neurobiology and anatomy professor at the University of Utah testified before congress.
"Imposing pain on any pain capable creature is cruelty and ignoring the pain experience by another human, for any reason, is barbaric,” said Condic during her testimony.
Condic argues the science, recognized by the American Medical Association, is incomplete and flawed. She believes a fetus can suffer well before 20 weeks.
The new law does not prohibit elective abortions after 20 weeks. It merely requires pain relief medication be provided.
But Dr. Torres said it is in effect putting physicians in the crosshairs of the legal system.
"No other medical procedure is under criminal code. So yes, I am concerned that I can lose my license and my livelihood because I'm providing standard medical care,” Torres said.
Violating the law could result in a misdemeanor and possibly losing the license to practice medicine in Utah.