by Maya T. Prabhu
May 25 2016
COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday signed legislation making it illegal for a woman to get an abortion once her pregnancy reaches 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.
The measure, which went into effect with Haley’s signature, was passed out of the Senate last week.
The governor did not immediately issue a statement explaining her support.
The law allows doctors to perform abortions past 20 weeks only if the fetus has been diagnosed with an “anomaly” and will die, or the mother’s life is threatened. Doctors who disobey the new rules would face jail time.
Opponents said the law has the effect of limiting medical options.
“We are incredibly disappointed in Gov. Haley for signing HB 3114 into law today,” Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement.
“In reality, abortion later in pregnancy is extremely rare and often takes place in difficult and complicated situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.”
Dr. Scott Sullivan, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, sent Haley a letter last week asking her to veto the bill. He said Wednesday he was disappointed in the outcome.
“But I’ll just keep doing what we always do, trying to help families in need,” he said. “This just makes it harder.”
Three outpatient clinics — in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville — are licensed to offer abortions in South Carolina. State law already prohibits the clinics from performing abortions past the 18th week of a woman’s pregnancy. In practice, these clinics only offer abortions through the 13th or 14th week of pregnancy, according to their websites.
The law will impact hospitals in South Carolina that offer abortions when the health of the fetus or mother is jeopardized.
Sullivan told The Post and Courier that the law doesn’t offer any room for uncertainty. The new ban, he said, will prohibit doctors from terminating a pregnancy once it reaches 20 weeks, even if the infant will very likely die in the womb or shortly after birth.
Haley’s office announced she signed the bill shortly before she attended a portrait unveiling in the state Senate for the late Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was gunned down with eight others last June at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
“I am not surprised that she signed it,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, an abortion rights supporter. “I think it is the ultimate irony that that bill is being signed in one moment and we are here celebrating the life of my friend and college Senator Pinckney in the next. Life is funny that way.”
The signing also comes a day after abortion rights supporters rallied outside the Statehouse asking Haley to veto the bill.
Supporters of the ban, including Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, and who voted in favor of the bill, said they were glad Haley signed the measure into law because it represents a statement in support of life.
“I believe that an unborn child is human life and therefore I am compelled to be opposed to abortion except if the life of the mother is threatened,” he said.
Campsen added, “I supported it because it is a restriction on abortion, which I believe is taking a human life, that we are able to pass and not have struck down by the federal courts.”
Haley has long-maintained she would sign bills that limit access to abortions. It is part of a trend of abortion limiting legislation being passed in some GOP-dominated Statehouses.
But last week, Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill that would have made it a felony for doctors to perform abortions there. Bans on abortion at 20 weeks are now in effect in 13 states. They are being blocked by court challenges in three others.
Fallin said she felt the Oklahoma bill was too vague and unable to withstand a legal challenge.
Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said it was troubling that the General Assembly would “trample” on the U.S. Supreme Court Case Roe v. Wade, which ruled women have a right to seek an abortion.
“Women’s reproductive rights should not be subject to politics,” Kimpson said. “It’s disappointing that Gov. Haley doesn’t understand that.”
Lauren Sausser contributed to this report. Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.