MTPR

House Passes Bill Requiring Anesthesia For Fetal Surgery

Mar 24, 2015

The Montana House today Tuesday passed a bill requiring fetuses past twenty weeks of gestation to be anesthetized before any surgery. The sponsor denies that the bill is about abortion, but opponents aren’t convinced.

Rep. Albert Olszewski (R) HD11
Credit Montana Legislature

Albert Olszewski, the Kalispell Republican who’s pushing this bill, says surgery on fetuses still in the womb is becoming an accepted practice.

"As of 2014, surgery is now occurring upon unborn children within the womb here in this state, here in Montana.  As a result the question of when pain control is required for unborn children is pertinent and it’s timely," Olszewski said.

His bill would require a fetus to be anesthetized before any medical procedure, including abortion. He claims new research shows fetuses can feel pain as early as twenty weeks after conception, but that’s in dispute. The Journal of the American Medical Association concludes fetuses are unlikely to feel pain before 27 weeks.

Opponents argued on the House floor that Olszewski’s bill is really about abortion, and Democrat Jessica Karjala from Billings says it could backfire.

“When a woman has anesthesia when she’s pregnant, for any reason, and it’s my understanding it could be any type of anesthesia, that this could cause a termination… If we’re gonna force people to have anesthesia we could be causing unwanted terminations."

The bill passed the House on a largely party-line vote, after an amendment was added allowing a woman to opt out of anesthesia for her fetus. Final approval is likely on Wednesday; then the bill heads to the Senate.