South Carolina abortion bill joins list of state restrictions

South Carolina has passed a bill to prohibit abortion after 19 weeks, one of many state regulations that could be impacted by a US Supreme Court decision on an abortion regulation from Texas.

Bruce Smith/AP/File
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) speaks with reporters outside the Jasper County office building in Ridgeland, S.C., earlier this month. The South Carolina Legislature passed a bill Tuesday prohibiting abortion after 19 weeks. The legislation will now head to Governor Haley's desk.

South Carolina is adding to the list of state-level abortion restrictions, as lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday to restrict abortions after 19 weeks.

If Gov. Nikki Haley (R) signs the bill as she has suggested she will, South Carolina will become the 17th state with such a ban. Such bans are also being litigated in several states as the country's ongoing abortion debate has found more momentum in a series of recent regulations that can make abortions rarer.

The most well-known and controversial of these measures comes from Texas, where lawmakers in July 2013 passed House Bill 2 to increase the safety regulations for doctors who perform abortions and the clinics where such procedures occur. Because the law made the medical regulations so strict, roughly half the state's abortion clinics have closed since then. The US Supreme Court is now hearing arguments about whether the state's restrictions align with court mandates to keep abortion both legal and safe, as the Monitor's Warren Richey has reported in-depth:

The case is potentially a landmark because it arises at a time when conservative lawmakers in a growing number of states are passing the same or similar regulations, making it harder for women to access abortion services.

Since 2010, an unprecedented 288 abortion restrictions have been passed at the state level, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that tracks reproductive health issues.

The Supreme Court arguments could potentially impact not only the law in Texas and the bill in South Carolina, but also similar laws in Indiana and Utah, where state governments passed regulations requiring anesthesia for abortions performed after 20 weeks and banning abortions that were based on fetal disability.

"This is a watershed moment in the battle for reproductive rights," Nancy Northup, president of the New York-based abortion advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights, has told reporters.

State Rep. Wendy Nanney (R), the sponsor of the South Carolina bill, said the 19-week ban is a step toward getting "rid of abortion altogether."

"I firmly believe life begins at conception and anything we can do to protect human life I'm all for," Representative Nanney said.

Her bill provides exemptions if the mother's life is threatened by a pregnancy or a doctor says the baby would not survive after birth, a compromise required by Democrats in the Senate.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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