A bill that would ban abortions in South Carolina after 19 weeks is now heading to the governor’s desk.
The state House ended debate Tuesday on a measure that shortens the current state limit from 23 weeks. Seven Democrats joined in the 79-29 majority, while no Republicans opposed. Senators approved the final compromise version back in March, but its House backers had been reluctant to include some of the exceptions, believing they could be abused by providers trying to go around the law. Senate leaders hope the expanded language makes it more likely to withstand legal challenges.
Lead sponsor State Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, said the final version allows exceptions if the mother’s life is in jeopardy or if there is a “fetal anomaly.” South Carolina is one of only four states with both exemptions.
“The definition of fetal anomaly means in reasonable medical judgment, the unborn child has a profound congenital or chromosomal anomaly that with or without the provision of life-preserving treatment would be incapable of sustaining life after birth,” she told House members Tuesday.
Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to sign the measure, but told the Associated Press she wanted to first read the final version before committing.
Opponents argue abortions after 20 weeks are almost always done for medical reasons and that federal judges have blocked similar laws in other states. “I hope each one of you that support it will (include) funding to fight the litigation costs that’ll be associated with the inevitable conclusion of this law being set aside as unconstitutional,” State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, said.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, went even further, noting the bill’s passage while debate continues on road funding. “The next time you hit a pothole, remember that Republicans were too busy restricting women’s reproductive rights to do anything about it,” he said in a statement released after Tuesday’s vote.
Procedures after 20 weeks make up less than 0.5 percent of all abortions performed in South Carolina, according to previous years’ data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. The bill does not include any language exempting the victims of rape or incest.