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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Rep. Paul Ray is preparing legislation that would require women seeking abortions after 20 weeks of gestation be told their fetus could feel pain and suffer without anesthesia.
Ray, R-Clearfield, said pain medication for the fetus would be optional.
He acknowledges his goal is to discourage women from having an abortion.
"I hope the mother would think about it," said Ray, a banker. "There's so many families who want children, who would love to adopt."
In 2003, the most recent year for Utah abortion statistics, 18 women had abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Scientists do not agree on when a fetus may be able to perceive pain.
The most recent study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that fetal brains do not sense pain until 29 or 30 weeks.
"Fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester," an abstract of the study said. "Little or no evidence addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques. Limited or no data exist on the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in the context of abortion."
Anti-abortion groups have disputed the study. They say one of the authors briefly worked for the National Abortion Rights Action League and another runs an abortion clinic at a hospital.
Ray, a former police officer and Zion's bank executive, dismissed the JAMA article as political, and said he has read competing studies about fetal development and concluded the unborn can feel pain.
He has modeled his bill on legislation adopted by Minnesota lawmakers last year. Similar federal legislation has been proposed.
Ray is the first legislator to announce abortion legislation for the next session, but he said he knows of three other lawmakers' abortion bills. They are being kept secret until the opening of the session in January.
Planned Parenthood CEO Karrie Galloway said Ray and the other lawmakers are grandstanding.
Galloway said next year is an election year, and, "They're going to take a vote on another abortion bill that has very little meaning in the state of Utah so they can have a political notch in their belts."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)