Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law Wednesday a measure that would ban abortions in South Carolina after 19 weeks, unless the mother’s life is at risk or the fetus suffers an anomaly that makes it unlikely to survive outside the womb.
Haley signed the bill with little fanfare Wednesday shortly after legislators in the House and Senate ratified it, opting not to hold a press conference or signing ceremony as she sometimes does for major legislation.
The bill shortens South Carolina’s previous window for abortions from 23 weeks. Supporters of the bill argue there is scientific evidence that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks, but opponents respond scientific research into fetal pain is complex, hardly settled and may even suggest the opposite.
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 new law does not include any language exempting the victims of rape or incest, but supporters say those women would still be able to get an abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy.
Nevertheless abortion opponents praised Haley for ensuring South Carolina is the 17th state to ban abortions after 20 weeks, along with the law’s sponsors State Reps. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, and Donna Hicks, R-Boiling Springs.
“The efforts of these women reflect the reality that most Americans – women in higher numbers than men – want to end brutal late-term abortions in this country,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “Indeed this is the latest victory amid a recent flurry of state-level pro-life activity being led by women lawmakers.”
Opponents say the new law likely be struck down by federal judges, since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision ruled states can only outlaw abortion at the age a fetus is considered viable outside the womb “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 shortly before the bill passed the House last week.
Doctors face up to $10,000 in fines and three years in prison for each violation. Prison time is mandatory on a third conviction.
South Carolina’s law does make an exception if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus suffers a profound congenital or chromosomal “anomaly” that makes it unlikely to survive outside the womb. Such anomalies are usually detected around 20 weeks.