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S.C. House Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban

March 21, 2014 — The South Carolina House on Wednesday approved a measure (H 4223) that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters reports (McLeod, Reuters, 3/19).

The only exception to the ban would be to save a woman's life; in such cases, a physician would still be required to try to deliver the fetus alive. The bill would also require abortion providers to estimate the age of the fetus and report the patient's age, her race and the method of abortion to the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/27). Physicians who violate the ban could face civil charges of "unprofessional conduct," with punishments of up to three years in prison and penalties of up to $10,000 (Reuters, 3/19).

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, the measure passed the state House largely along party lines in an 84-29 vote, with Republicans voting in support of the bill and Democrats voting against it (Borden, Charleston Post and Courier, 3/19). The bill now proceeds to the state Senate.

If signed by Gov. Nikki Haley (R), the bill would make South Carolina the 13th state in the country to enact a 20-week ban, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

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State Rep. Wendy Nanney (R), the bill's primary sponsor, claimed that studies show that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, adding that "the state has a right to step in and protect that child."

However, state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D) argued that state Republicans are doing little to help infants or their parents after birth, particularly given the party's opposition to the expansion of Medicaid. "(Republicans) plead passionately for life for those fetuses who are yet to be born," but that "compassion does not seem to have the same level of interest" after the "fetus becomes a child and is delivered," she said (Reuters, 3/19).

Planned Parenthood spokesperson Melissa Reed said, "While no woman should have to justify her personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under heartbreaking and tragic circumstances," adding, "Politicians have no place in that conversation" (Charleston Post and Courier, 3/19).