Women in South Carolina will no longer be able to have abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy unless their lives are in danger, after the state's legislature passed a new bill on Tuesday.
"I believe that life begins at conception and every step we can take to get back to that point is important," Rep. Wendy Nanney, the bill's main sponsor, told Reuters. "In my view and many others it's inhumane to subject that baby to pain at 20 weeks."
Abortions after 19 weeks are rare, the Associated Press reports: in South Carolina on average less than 30 are performed per year. Critics of the bill say that in some of those cases the pregnancy is being terminated because of a severe fetal disability.
"They are wanted pregnancies, but they find out there is a terrible abnormality," Rep. James Smith, an opponent of the bill, told the news agency on Tuesday.
Doctors in other states testified against similar bans. In Wisconsin, which passed a 20-week abortion ban last year, doctors came forward to say that the legislation interferes with being able to provide the best care for pregnant women.
“If ultrasounds are done earlier than 20 weeks, it’s not possible to see all the anatomy. That’s why we wait, to fully understand what is happening with the abnormalities,” Dr. Tosha Wetterneck of the Wisconsin Medical Society told ThinkProgress. “We should give doctors the chance to collect all of that information in order to make the best decision.”
The South Carolina bill, which will be sent to Governor Nikki Haley's desk to be signed into law, does not allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
"This is a dangerous bill for South Carolina women," Alyssa Miller, South Carolina director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, told Reuters. "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."