- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A bill that would outlaw non-emergency abortions in South Dakota at or beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy is headed to the full Senate after passing its first committee test Friday.

The Senate Health and Human Services committee voted 4-3 for the measure, which offers some exemptions for women in medical emergencies, but not in cases of rape or incest.

Supporters of the bill say fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and the measure aims to “recognize the humanity of children in the womb who are capable of feeling pain,” said Republican Rep. Isaac Latterell, the bill’s main House sponsor.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says fetuses can’t feel pain until the third trimester starts at 27 weeks.

Under the bill, performing an abortion that violates the new threshold would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. A woman who gets such an abortion would not be subject to that consequence.

The bill would allow the abortion if it is necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother, but psychological or emotional conditions including a claim or diagnosis that a woman intends to kill herself aren’t part of the exemption.

South Dakota currently limits abortions at 24 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights nonprofit.

Democratic Sen. Troy Heinert, an opponent of the measure, said the bill is looking for a problem that doesn’t exist in South Dakota.

The state’s only abortion clinic, in Sioux Falls, doesn’t perform abortions after a pregnancy reaches 14 weeks, according to Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. Three major South Dakota health systems have said they terminate pregnancies only in life-threatening or terminal circumstances.

“It is another indication of this legislature’s obsession with abortion and restricting it, and it isn’t what the people of South Dakota want their legislature focusing on,” Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Jennifer Aulwes said.

In 2014, there were 551 induced abortions performed in South Dakota, according to Department of Health figures. At least 26 occurred at 13 weeks or later, according to the department.

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