South Carolina has moved closer to stronger legal restrictions against abortion, with a bill to ban most abortions after 19 weeks, due to evidence that unborn children can feel pain at that point.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston said the passage of South Carolina’s latest pro-life bill marks “a truly great day… especially for the many children that will be saved by this important life-affirming legislation,” the Charleston diocese’s newspaper The Catholic Miscellany reports.

“This act will support not only the moral law but also (the) proven scientific fact that unborn children feel pain by at least 20 weeks of development after fertilization,” he added. “As the Holy Father has said, ‘Let us say “yes” to life, and “no” to death’.”   Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference, said that abortions have declined by 57 percent in South Carolina after the passage of 14 laws that protect life.

The newest legislation would ban abortions after 19 weeks except for cases when a doctor determines the mother’s life is at risk or that the unborn baby cannot survive outside the womb. A doctor who violates the law would face up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The South Carolina bill is named the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It passed the House by a vote of 79-29 and the Senate by a vote of 36-9.

Gov. Nikki Haley in March said she will almost certainly sign the bill.

Similar laws have been passed in 17 states, though court challenges have blocked enforcement in three states.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin recently vetoed a bill to restrict abortion on the grounds of ambiguity, vagueness and inability to withstand a court challenge.

The bill would have made performing abortion a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Doctors who perform an abortion would lose their medical licenses. The bill allowed consideration for abortion in cases where a mother’s life was deemed to be in jeopardy.

The legislation had passed the state senate by a 32-12 vote. Lawmakers can still attempt to override the bill, which was part of a strategy to challenge Roe v. Wade.

Gov. Fallin has signed 18 pro-life bills, Fox News reports.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City did not comment on the specific legislation but voiced support for general pro-life efforts.

“I appreciate our Oklahoma leaders' recognition of the dignity and sanctity of every human life from conception to its natural end,” he told CNA May 23.

“Every life is precious and has infinite value in the eyes of God who creates each of us out of love. We must reject the throw away mentality that values human beings merely on the basis of their usefulness, health, age or economic status,” Archbishop Coakley said. “We can offer a compassionate and understanding pathway toward this renewal of our culture.”

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