South Carolina’s House passes 20-week abortion ban

March 20, 2014

South Carolina’s House on Wednesday passed a ban on abortions at or after 20 weeks, putting it on track to join 11 other state legislatures that have passed similar measures.

The measure passed in an 84 to 29 House vote, with another perfunctory vote needed before it heads to the Senate, according to the Associated Press. Local lawmakers tell The Post and Courier that the 20-week ban has the best chance of any of a handful of abortion measures being considered.

Earlier this month, the West Virginia legislature became the first Democratically led body to pass a similar measure. (The governor has yet to sign it.) Ten others — all Republican led — have passed similar bans: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. Republicans make up sizable majorities in both of South Carolina’s chambers.

The measure, like the others, sets 20 weeks as the cutoff based on the disputed claim that fetuses can feel pain by then. A 2005 review of scientific literature for the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “the capacity for conscious perception of pain can arise only after thalamocortical pathways begin to function, which may occur in the third trimester around 29 to 30 weeks’ gestational age.”

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total 44 abortions in South Carolina at or after 18 weeks of gestation.

Passage of abortion restrictions has surged in recent years. More were enacted in states between 2011 and 2013 than in the entire decade before, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which is focused on advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights. Abortion rates are at their lowest levels in 30 states since at least 1976, they found.

State abortion laws. (Source: Guttmacher Institute)
State abortion laws. (Source: Guttmacher Institute)

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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