There must be something unflatteringly regressive in the water in the Carolinas lately. First, North Carolina passed a flagrantly discriminatory bill barring transgender people from using the public restroom of the gender with which they identify (not to mention restricting cities from passing nondiscrimination laws, because who needs equality?), effectively establishing a national flashpoint around an issue that had never before even been an issue. Then, on Wednesday this week, South Carolina's Republican Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a bill that bans abortions at 20 weeks' gestation and beyond, with no exception for instances of rape or incest, offering no relief for women whose infants will likely be stillborn or die shortly after birth. It's all part of the conservative goal to overturn Roe v. Wade and eventually outlaw all abortions nationally — a movement built on myths and driven by religion. Here's what South Carolina's abortion ban really means for women.
Soon after South Carolina's legislature approved the measure last week, the bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Wendy Nanney told Reuters that she believes "life begins at conception." OK, fine. That's a personal opinion. Her real justification, though, is a lie:
In my view and many others', it's inhumane to subject that baby to pain at 20 weeks.
No. Just no. Because the idea that fetuses begin to feel pain 20 weeks into a pregnancy — a driving force the passage of such bills in 16 other states — has been definitively and repeatedly debunked as pseudoscience. Salon reported that both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have concluded that it is nothing but a myth, but still the idea persists.
And it persists because anti-abortion legislators are on a mission to impose their misguided morality onto women seeking a safe medical procedure. According NARAL Pro-Choice American, just 1.5 percent of abortion occur after 20 weeks. Although that number is small, it's significant because those women are often "in the most desperate of circumstances," according to a letter the organization wrote last month to Haley herself.
For example, a Nebraska woman was 22 weeks pregnant when she found out that her fetus would be born with severe deformities and underdeveloped lungs. Because of the state's ban on abortions at 20 weeks or longer, the woman could not terminate her pregnancy and therefore endured "intense pain and infection" before giving birth to a daughter, who died just 15 minutes later.
"The reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is extremely rare and often takes place in complex and difficult situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available," Alyssa Miller, South Carolina director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Despite the fact that South Carolina's new law will permit abortion after 20 weeks if there is a threat to the mother's life, it's clear that that laws such as these completely disregard women's health and well-being.
Currently, the three abortion clinics in South Carolina are already prohibited from offering abortions after the 18th week of pregnancy. That means that the new law will affect hospitals where doctors perform abortions in the cases when there is an anomaly, and the health of the fetus or the mother is jeopardized. Now, doctors could be jailed if they grant these abortions they need. It's simply detrimental to women's health. And laws like this are becoming increasingly common.
During a debate over a (later vetoed) Oklahoma bill that would have made it a felony for doctors to perform abortions in the state, Rep. David Brumbaugh told the House that the proposed measure was simply "moral and right."
“It’s not about policy. It’s not about politics," he said, according to The Washington Post. "It’s about principle."
And in March, Utah passed a "fetal pain" abortion law requiring that women be anesthetized for a post-20 week procedure, a move that Dr. Anne Davis, the consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Health, said is unethical, according to CNN:
Imagine that I sit down with a patient and tell her what she can expect and how I'm going to take care of her and somehow I work in, "Oh, by the way, the state has told me that I have to give this to you?" She asks, "Why?" And I say, "There's no benefit to you, but there will be additional risk." How as a doctor do I live with that? This law is about stopping abortion. This is just another measure to deter women from getting abortions.
As state legislators continue to push to restrict abortion rights with the goal of abolishing them altogether, women will suffer the consequences as their doctors' autonomy is trampled and they can no longer access the medical care they need. Women should always have the right to safe and legal abortions, or else some may resort to the DIY variety, a harrowing reality of the unnecessary whittling away of women's health care options. Fetal pain laws represent some conservative lawmakers' dedication to propagating fiction over women's health to further a moralist agenda, and that is unacceptable.