What You Must Know About 20-Week Abortion Bans, Like The New One In South Carolina
States in the South have a relatively well-deserved reputation for imposing anti-choice legislation. For its own part, prior to Thursday, South Carolina was already mandating state-directed counseling prior to procedures, designed with the purpose of discouraging women seeking abortions. But on Thursday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a ban on abortions past 20 weeks gestation. The bill Haley signed has no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
The bill took effect immediately after Haley signed it. The South Carolina Gov. has yet to release a statement regarding her decision, and to save you all the time you’d have to spend decoding the misleading rhetoric any statement from Haley will inevitably contain, here’s the truth about 20-week abortion bans.
Following the logic used by conservative politicians to justify the 20-week ban, at 20 weeks gestation fetuses “can feel pain.” But as their logic so often does, this overwhelmingly contradicts the medical community’s findings. Overlooking research about women’s health and giving scientists the middle finger tends to be a requirement to shame women and portray them as sadists who are cool with making living babies suffer, and to portray this basic medical procedure as murder.
Further, as Think Progress pointed out last year, most major fetal anomalies can’t even be detected until an ultrasound is performed at 20 weeks gestation, giving mothers no other choice but to bring into this world a life slated for tragedy.
Ultimately, Roe v. Wade (1973) protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion until the fetus is considered viable, at which point the procedure would constitute an actual threat to women’s health. It specified that viability is typically reached between 22 and 24 weeks gestation and is ultimately determined by the woman’s doctor, so 20-week bans are cutting off a women’s right to choose, at the very least, two weeks early.
Two weeks might not seem like such a substantial amount of time and, following the thinking of failed presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and 20-week ban supporters in general, all women — victims of rape and incest included — should have made up their minds by 20 weeks. The key word there is “should,” which anti-choice lawmakers have hijacked and replaced with the word “must,” undermining women’s autonomy over their bodies and assigning them with a due date for what can understandably be a painstaking decision for some. If only abortion weren’t so stigmatized, and state-directed counseling so misleading, so that having an abortion wouldn’t have to be so difficult a decision to make.
But as Vox points out, another reason 20-week bans are becoming increasingly popular in conservative-leaning states dominated by anti-choice politicians, is that if the 20-week ban finds its way to enough states, it could potentially find its way to the Supreme Court. Then, while highly unlikely, there would exist a chance that Roe v. Wade could be overturned altogether. But I repeat: This is highly unlikely, so for the time being we can focus our frustrations on the ridiculous 20-week ban in South Carolina.
As of March 2016, 12 other states ban abortions later than 20 weeks. Meanwhile, there are states like Utah with its recent passage of new requirement for women to undergo anesthesia (deemed medically unnecessary) upon reaching 20-weeks gestation, which doctors claim is essentially a 20-week ban, upholding legislation that doesn’t explicitly prohibit abortions past 20-weeks, but render them impossible to obtain.
At the end of the day, it’s unlikely heaping on this additional regulation is going to magically stop abortions past 20 weeks from happening. It’s just going to shame and further inconvenience women who will be forced to travel out of state for their procedures or even, in extreme cases, lead to self-induced abortion.