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Unconstitutional Abortion Ban Sails Through South Carolina Legislature

Teddy Wilson

Alyssa Miller, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement that the anti-choice bill is “dangerous” and “made even more extreme” by the lack of exceptions.

South Carolina legislators on Tuesday passed a bill prohibiting abortion care at 20 weeks’ gestation, which the bill’s sponsor told the Associated Press is another step toward getting “rid of abortion altogether.”

Courts have struck down as unconstitutional similar GOP-backed bills that seek to ban abortion care after or around 20 weeks’ gestation in three states: Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is expected to sign the bill.

H 3114, sponsored by Rep. Wendy Nanney (R-Greenville), bans abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization unless, in a physician’s judgment, abortion care is necessary to avert the patient’s death or a serious risk of “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function,” other than a psychological condition.

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The bill, at first, contained no exception for medical emergency, rape, incest, and fetal anomaly. The house amended the bill to include such exceptions. The state senate amended it to strip the exceptions from the bill.

The final bill includes no exceptions for rape or incest, but has an exception for cases of severe fetal anomalies as well as medical emergency.

The state house approved the compromise bill Tuesday with a 79-29 vote. The senate approved it, 36-9.

Nanney told Reuters that she supports the radical anti-choice measure based on the debunked theory that a fetus can experience pain.

“I believe that life begins at conception and every step we can take to get back to that point is important,” Nanney said. “In my view and many others it’s inhumane to subject that baby to pain at 20 weeks.”

The bill is based on copycat legislation authored by the legislation mill known as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). It justifies the measure on the theory that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy. The claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks has been discredited by medical professionals.

Hospitals in South Carolina are the only facilities in which people seeking to terminate a pregnancy at 20 weeks or later could obtain abortion care today. South Carolina’s three abortion clinics do not provide the procedure past 18 weeks of pregnancy.

Rep. James Smith (D-Richland) told the Associated Press that there are “wanted pregnancies” during which the pregnant person discovers a terrible abnormality.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting if we take dollar-for-dollar the money we’re going to spend litigating unconstitutional bills and put it into something that makes a difference in South Carolina?” Smith asked.

Alyssa Miller, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement that the bill is “dangerous” and “made even more extreme” by the lack of exceptions.

“The reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is extremely rare and often takes place in complex and difficult situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available,” Miller said.

South Carolina is set to become the 17th state to ban abortion care at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. South Dakota in March passed a similar bill.

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