South Carolina lawmakers passed a law banning abortion at 20 weeks Tuesday, the point in a pregnancy when evidence shows the unborn child can feel pain.
Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to sign the bill when it hits her desk, making South Carolina the 17th state to ban abortion after 19 weeks, reports CBS. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers.
Opponents of such bans say it’s unconstitutional to ban the procedure that early on in the pregnancy, and legal battles are holding up implementation of the law in three states. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether the bans are constitutional.
Lawmakers across the country have passed a slew of abortion-related laws in the past few years pro-choice activists say are shutting down clinics and making it hard for women to get abortions. Lawmakers pushing the laws, such as the 20-week abortion ban or a requirement for abortion clinics to meet surgical standards or gain admitting privileges to nearby hospitals, say the point is to protect women’s health.
No abortion clinic in South Carolina makes the procedure available after 15 weeks, so the new restriction would only affect hospitals in the state where women can get the later-term abortions.
Some states have also banned the “dismemberment” abortion procedure, in which the doctor pulls the living fetus out of the womb piece by piece and then vacuums out the remaining bits and pieces. An unprecedented law went into effect last week in Utah requiring doctors to numb the fetus before an abortion if the mother is at least 20 weeks along.
The sponsor of the South Carolina 20-week ban, state Rep. Wendy Nanney, told CBS she hopes the law will help “get rid of abortion altogether” at some point. A doctor convicted of illegally performing an abortion under the law would get a $10,000 fine and could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
Congressional Republicans moved a similar ban they referred to as the “pain-capable abortion ban” through the House and Senate in 2015. Democrats blocked the ban in the Senate.
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