- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

South Carolina became the 17th state to ban abortions after the 20-week mark Wednesday when Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act into law.

The legislation passed the South Carolina Senate last week and allows abortions after the five-month mark only in the event of a terminal “anomaly” diagnosis of the fetus.

Pro-life groups were quick to praise Ms. Haley for signing the legislation.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called the legislation the “latest victory amid a flurry of state-level pro-life activity being led by women lawmakers.”

Ms. Dannenfelser also lobbied Congress to enact a similar measure.

“A national limit — which would save up to 18,000 lives a year and protect many women — is long overdue,” she said. “The U.S. is only one in seven nations to allow late-term abortion after the five-month mark. If we take back the White House and protect our pro-life majorities in Congress, we can pass this legislation in 2017.”

Pro-choice groups pressured the governor to veto the legislation. Activists rallied outside of the South Carolina Statehouse on Tuesday calling for Ms. Haley to reject the bill.

Doctors face up to $10,000 in fines and three years in prison for each violation. Prison time is mandatory on a third conviction.

These bans are now in effect in at least 13 states and blocked by court challenges in several others. South Dakota’s ban takes effect July 1.

Women nationwide have the right to obtain abortions under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which said states could restrict abortions after viability — the point at which a fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving outside the uterus. “Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks,” the ruling said.

The Supreme Court has not ruled on bans that would limit earlier abortions.

As in other states, South Carolina’s law ties the gestation period to conception rather than a women’s monthly cycle. Because this date cannot be scientifically determined, the ban refers to what doctors consider a gestational age of 22 weeks.

Supporters of the bill cite the disputed claim that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Opponents say later-term abortions usually happen with wanted pregnancies that go horribly wrong.

“The reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is extremely rare and often takes place in complex and difficult situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available,” said Alyssa Miller, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman for South Carolina.

South Carolina’s definition of “fetal anomaly” makes it illegal to abort a fetus with a severe disability if the child could live. Such anomalies are generally detected around 20 weeks.

Advocates for abortion rights contend these measures are aimed at restricting women’s access to safe, legal abortions.

In 2012, Ms. Haley signed a bill intended to ensure that a fetus surviving an abortion attempt is not treated as medical waste. It defined a person as anyone who is breathing and has a beating heart after birth, whether by labor, cesarean section or abortion, copying a 2002 federal law enforceable on federal property.

The ban would affect only hospitals because none of the three abortion clinics in South Carolina provides abortions beyond 15 weeks.

On average, fewer than 30 abortions yearly are performed at 20 weeks of gestation or beyond in South Carolina, according to data since 1990 from the state’s public health agency. Most of these women have been white, married and older than 24, according to the agency.

Last week, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have criminalized the performance of abortion in the state.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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