A law criminalizing abortion at 20-weeks of pregnancy advanced to South Carolina's Senate on Wednesday, with proponents of the bill arguing fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation.
The bill, called House Bill 4223, was approved by a 4-1 panel vote on Wednesday, and now moves to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee for consideration. The state's House has already approved the bill by a 81-22 vote. The bill was able to advance Wednesday only after exceptions, including rape, incest, and fetal abnormality, were added to the legislation's text. When the bill passed the state House vote last month, the only exception included was if the mother's life was in danger.
The bill also includes text protecting the use of contraceptives, IUDS and the morning-after pill, as skeptics of the bill were concerned that its original text would put the legal use of such medications in danger.
Proponents of the bill argue such legislation is important, citing the disputed medical argument that fetuses can feel pain at 20-weeks of pregnancy. Those opposed to the legislation argue that it is unconstitutional and opens the door for lawsuits that would drain state resources.
According to The Associated Press, some proponents of the bill objected to the newly-added exceptions, arguing that they softened the bill's intent to protect human life. Sen. Lee Bright (R-Roebuck), the bill's sponsor, said he was especially opposed to the exceptions granted for rape or incest.
"Without exceptions I feel like that the rapist ought to receive the capital punishment, not the unborn child," the senator said.
Senator Ray Cleary (R-Murrells Inlet) has previously expressed reservations about the bill, arguing that enlisting a 20-week ban may not solve the problem of 20-week abortions in the state. Some have argued that South Carolina women seeking 20-week abortions would just travel to neighboring Georgia or North Carolina to receive the procedure.
"Making things illegal doesn't take away the problem, it just makes it illegal," he said. "You can't legislate morality."
If South Carolina were to make HB 4223 a law, it would join the states Nebraska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and in banning abortion at 20 weeks pregnancy.