COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has signed into law a bill banning most abortions in the state at 20 weeks of pregnancy, joining 13 other states where such limitations currently stand.
Haley signed the South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act May 25 after the Legislature sent it to her desk a week earlier.
Effective immediately, the law bans abortions after the 19th week, including pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, and allows for exceptions only to save the mother’s life or in cases of “fetal anomaly,” according to the South Carolina Legislature.
The law defines fetal anomaly as “in reasonable medical judgment, the unborn child has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that, with or without the provision of life-preserving treatment, would be incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”
Mark Hendrick, associate director of the Office of Public Policy at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, praised the state for adopting the measure.
“Unborn babies are victims of excruciating painful abortions after the 20-week mark right here in our very state. This bill will give these children a chance at life, and that is something to celebrate,” Hendrick told Baptist Press. “No one knows what the Supreme Court will do, but it’s not their job to make laws to protect South Carolinians. That job falls on the General Assembly of South Carolina, with our Governor left to enforce them. The people spoke, and those in authority listened.”
The law affirms the ability of unborn children to feel pain at about 20 weeks of gestation.
“There is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by twenty weeks after fertilization,” the bill partly reads. “It is the purpose of the State to assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain.”
Doctors breaking the new law would be charged with a misdemeanor, subject to fines ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years. At the third offense, prison terms must be at least 60 days, but still no more than three years, the law stipulates.
The law would only currently apply to hospitals, as none of the three abortion clinics in the state provide abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, the Associated Press reported.
According to the Guttmeicher Institute, such bans are also in effect in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a 20-week abortion ban in 2015, and the Senate Judiciary Committee reopened debate March 15 on a similar bill. President Obama had threatened to veto such a measure.