By Bonnie Williams, Contributor
A few months ago, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed into law a new abortion restriction prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. This law does not have a clause for rape or incest, and doctors who perform abortions after the 20-week period could face jail time. At a ceremonial re-signing of the bill at a Christian school for disabled children, ”The Palmetto Post” quotes Haley saying, “I’m not pro-life because the Republican Party tells me. I’m pro-life because all of us have experiences of what it means to have one of these special little ones in our life.”
Let’s dive into why this law is a victory for the pro-life movement and a setback for the pro-choice movement. The 20 week cutoff is usually enacted in a state because it is considered that at that time, a fetus is capable of pain and is a viable life. Being a viable life means that the child can survive outside of the mother’s womb. Though viability is usually cited as occurring a little later than 20 weeks, 20 weeks is commonly considered the cutoff for abortion. Many states also restrict abortion to this time period because there has been evidence showing that a baby can feel pain after 20 weeks and thus, it would be cruel to perform an abortion after that point. This cutoff time is subject to much controversy with fights for both earlier and later cutoff times across the board. Another aspect of the new law is that there is no caveat for rape or incest. In many cases, laws allow for abortion if the woman was raped because many people feel that for the woman to have a child conceived in rape would be traumatic to her health. Pro-life supporters do not feel this way and think a child should not be punished for the crimes of his/her father and this new law clearly leans that way. Finally, the new law says that doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks could go to jail, which is a serious consequence showing that this law means business. This law and Haley’s comments in support of it show that she is unequivocally opposed to abortion and is trying to restrict it.
For the pro-life movement, this law is a small, but sure victory. The pro-life movement tries to slowly but surely chip away at existing abortion laws in order to make them more and more restrictive with the hopes that one day, abortion will become illegal. Laws like the 24-hour waiting period, the consent law and the requirement for abortion facilities to offer ultrasounds are all pushed forward in the hope of informing women what a serious and life-changing decision choosing to have an abortion is.
Abortion laws are changing all the time, always surrounded by controversy and emotion. Forty years later, Roe v. Wade is still one of the most controversial court rulings in the history of the U.S. and abortion law is continuously fought over by pro-life and pro-choice advocates. However, abortion rarely makes the front page news. The law Haley passed was enacted back in May, and you may not have heard about it at all unless you are invested in either side of the abortion debate. Sometimes, the abortion debate does make the news, like the controversy over the purported selling of aborted baby parts or whether religious organizations should have to pay for/provide contraceptives. But unless it is breaking news being hotly debated in the national circuits, it is rare for the abortion debate to make the front page or even to be talked about at all. For example, the March for Life happens every year in Washington D.C., where millions of pro-life advocates march through Washington in the cold of January, peacefully protesting against abortion. This event is an annual occurrence, with thousands of people making their way to Washington, but it is hardly ever acknowledged by the media at all. Other protests, rallies and marches are currently being widely broadcasted all over the country, but this event goes unnoticed by the majority of news sources.
So why don’t we hear about abortion law? Well, it’s uncomfortable. Abortion is not something people want to talk about. It can be gruesome and emotional and sometimes it hits way too close to home. But being uncomfortable cannot be an excuse to be uninformed. This year is an election year, and though abortion has turned out to be one of the most not talked-about issues, it’s important to know where your candidate stands on abortion. When you vote, you are voting for not just some of what a candidate supports, but all of it. It’s important to know if your candidate supports what you support, especially on the issue of abortion. Even though you don’t hear abortion come up in conversation frequently, people go to work everyday to fight the war of abortion. Your opinion, and your vote, count.
I’m proud that Nikki Haley has decided to stand up and support women and families with this new law. Through my own experiences with the pro-life movement, I know that abortion hurts women and families, and I’m glad that Nikki Haley sees this as well. With the election year upon us, abortion law is something I’m invested in. I keep in mind at all times a quote by the newly canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, also known as Mother Theresa: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want.”
South Carolina’s new law supported by Nikki Haley is another small and quiet victory for the pro-life movement, but another setback for the pro-choice movement. Wherever you stand on this issue, this is an important cause that is not discussed enough. Don’t be afraid of the controversy; join the conversation.