The Buzz

SC abortion ban at 20 weeks close to becoming law


A bill that would ban abortion starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy is close to becoming law.

The “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” would make abortion illegal at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later – except when the mother’s life is at risk or in the case of a severe fetal anomaly that would prevent the child from living after birth.

The bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest. It also would penalize doctors who perform abortions illegally.

The Republican-controlled S.C. House is expected to give its OK as soon as Thursday to the bill, said Judiciary Committee chairman Greg Delleney, R-Chester, an abortion opponent.

Calling abortions at 20 weeks or later “infanticide,” Delleney said the bill would mean more children will live.

However, Melissa Reed, with Planned Parenthood Votes South Atlantic, slammed the ban, saying it will “restrict a woman’s ability to make personal and private medical decisions with her doctor.”

Already approved by the Senate, the House’s approval will send the bill to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk for her signature.

Sponsored by state Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, the legislation mirrors efforts nationally to reduce access to abortion based on the medically disputed argument that a fetus feels pain before 24 weeks – the point at which a fetus can live outside the womb.

Abortion now is legal in South Carolina through 24 weeks of pregnancy, the same period authorized by a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision. After 24 weeks, abortions are banned unless the mother’s life is in danger.

But 16 states have passed laws that limit access to legal abortion at 20 weeks or earlier.

Those laws have been challenged in three states – Arizona, Georgia and Idaho – and each was struck down as unconstitutional by courts, said Gretchen Borchelt of the National Women’s Law Center. The U.S. Supreme Court has said states can't ban abortion prior to 25 weeks, she said.

If it becomes law, the 20-week abortion ban would impact only a few S.C. women, often mothers whose wanted pregnancies face serious complications, abortion-rights advocates say.

On average, 28 abortions a year are performed at 20 weeks or later in South Carolina, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The ‘Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’

▪  Bans abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization except when the mother’s life is threatened or in the case of a severe fetal anomaly that would prevent the fetus from surviving after birth

▪  Requires doctors performing abortions at 20 weeks or later to choose a method that gives the fetus the best chance of surviving the procedure

▪  Says physicians who perform illegal abortions can be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned up to three years or both