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20-Week Abortion Ban Advances in S.C. Senate, Now Faces Procedural Block

20-Week Abortion Ban Advances in S.C. Senate, Now Faces Procedural Block

April 20, 2015 — A South Carolina Senate committee on Thursday voted 9-6 to advance legislation (H 3114) that would ban most abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but a procedural obstacle could block the measure from a full chamber vote, the Palmetto Post and Courier reports (Moore, Palmetto Post and Courier, 4/16).

A similar measure (H 4223) passed the state House last year but stalled in the state Senate.

Background

The 20-week legislation is based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks.

Current state law bans abortion at 24 weeks, with an exception for endangerment to a woman's life.

Bill Details

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Wendy Nanney (R), would permit abortion after 20 weeks to save a woman's life. If an abortion is needed to save a woman's life, a physician would be required to remove the fetus using a method that would give the fetus the best chance of survival. In addition, physicians would be required in such cases to report certain data to the state, including the method of abortion used and the age of the woman.

Further, the bill would require physicians to determine the length of gestation prior to performing abortions, except in cases of endangerment to a woman's life.

Physicians convicted of violating the law could face fines of up to $10,000 and potential jail time of up to three years (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/17).

Panel Adds Exceptions for Rape, Incest, Severe Fetal Anomalies

The state Senate Medical Affairs Committee advanced the measure on Thursday with several amendments.

According to the Palmetto Post and Courier, the panel by a single vote amended the measure to include exceptions for victims of rape, incest and in instances where "severe fetal anomalies" would prevent fetal survival.

Measure Faces Procedural Hurdle to Full Senate Vote

Although the committee voted to advance the measure, the panel would need to lift a procedural road block -- known as a minority report -- before it can send the bill to the full state Senate for consideration. Two-thirds of the full state Senate would have to vote to remove the minority report block.

According to the Post and Courier, state Sens. Brad Hutto (D) and Joel Lourie (D) placed the hold on the measure because they believe it would impede women's reproductive rights.

Meanwhile, state Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R) said he anticipates that supporters of the measure will try to consider the bill in a special order but is uncertain whether the attempt would be successful. According to the Post and Courier, only a few bills are considered via special order each year (Palmetto Post and Courier, 4/16).