A bill banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and beyond is heading to the South Carolina House floor for debate, according The State website. The bill passed through the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday with a 13-8 vote.
Opponents of the bill in the House argue that it is similar to an Arizona law that was recently struck down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Wendy Nanney, Republican, requires physicians to determine the age of the fetus before performing an abortion. It also establishes criminal penalties for doctors, making it a felony to break the law. Nanney argues the bill is necessary because science shows that fetuses, after 20 weeks, can feel pain.
Melissa Reed, a vice president at Planned Parenthood Health Systems, characterized the proposed legislation as a “dangerous and extreme bill [with] no basis in medicine."
”The reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under heartbreaking and tragic circumstances,” she said. "Politicians have no place in that conversation."
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision permits abortions during the first and second trimester of pregnancy. The decision allows states to ban abortions after the 24th week because the fetus is then considered viable and able to live outside the womb. Exceptions must be made to provide for the woman’s health and life.
State Rep. Todd Rutherford, Democrat, said the bill is likely unconstitutional and debating it further is a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”
During the committee meeting Tuesday, Rutherford asked Nanney how she could support the bill while knowing that the 9th Circuit had already struck down a similar law.
“I’m not willing to bow down to the 9th (Circuit),” Nanney later said, adding that South Carolina’s law, if passed and challenged, would be heard by the more conservative 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to a recent AP story, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal for the decision that struck down the Arizona law. It is likely that Nanney and her allies are looking for the Supreme Court to get involved. If the South Carolina legislation is eventually upheld by the 4th Circuit Court, the Supreme Court would likely have to render a decision to clear up the discrepancies between the two lower courts.