South Carolina 20-Week Abortion Ban Advances to Senate Floor

On Wednesday, a South Carolina senate committee advanced a 20-week ban on abortion that was already passed by the state house. The bill was amended to address some of the most pressing concerns from critics, but opponents of the bill say it is still an unconstitutional restriction on women’s health.

Another senate subcommittee amended the bill, HB 4223, on Wednesday to add exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and fetal anomaly. It also added language clarifying that contraception, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and emergency contraception would not be affected.

The original language of the ban only allowed exceptions for abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation when a “medical emergency” immediately threatens a woman’s life or health. This kind of health exception, which is seen frequently in anti-choice bills, is regarded by experts as unconstitutionally narrow and likely to exclude many health conditions pregnant women suffer from that lead them to terminate a later pregnancy. Moreover, 20-week bans are generally seen as unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, and passing such bans may be an anti-choice strategy to try to overturn that ruling and end legal abortion in the United States.

South Carolina’s bill would only affect abortions that happen in hospitals, as the state’s abortion clinics do not perform abortion procedures after 14 weeks. Less than 1 percent of procedures in South Carolina take place after 20 weeks, and those are often due to difficult circumstances in which a wanted pregnancy has gone wrong.

A recent poll found that a majority of South Carolina residents in key senate districts opposed a 20-week ban on abortion once they were made aware of the real-world circumstances under which women have later abortions.

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