South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law Wednesday legislation banning almost all abortions after 20 weeks. The measure was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month and makes South Carolina the 17th state to pass similar abortion restrictions; 13 of those states have bans already in effect and several others are making their way through the court system.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling granted women nationwide the right to obtain abortions, but allowed for state restrictions after viability, or the point during a pregnancy at which the fetus could conceivably survive outside the uterus. At the time, the court placed viability between about 24 and 28 weeks. Anti-abortion activists often cite the scientifically suspect theory that the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks as the rationale for the earlier legal cutoff.
It will become illegal for women in South Carolina to get an abortion after 20 weeks starting on July 1. Doctors performing the procedure later than the new cutoff face fines and up to three years in prison for a violation.