COLUMBIA, S.C. (CNS) — The South Carolina Legislature passed a bill that makes abortion illegal at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passed the South Carolina House of Representatives 79-29 May 17. The Senate passed the bill in March 36-9.

The bill was sent to Gov. Nikki Haley, who said in March that she would sign such a measure.

The legislation was promoted by South Carolina Citizens for Life and is based on scientific evidence that reveals an unborn child can feel pain early in its development.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston said the vote was a positive step in acknowledging and protecting the humanity of an unborn child, but added there is still much to accomplish.

“This act will support not only the moral law but also proven scientific fact that unborn children feel pain by at least 20 weeks of development after fertilization,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “Even before the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade, Catholics were aware of the humanity of the unborn and have worked diligently to establish laws to protect their fundamental right to life. As the Holy Father has said, ‘Let us say “yes” to life, and “no” to death.’

“This is truly a great day … especially for the many children that will be saved by this important life-affirming legislation,” he added.

Michael Acquilano, director of South Carolina Catholic Conference, said the Diocese of Charleston has been advocating for the legislation since 2014.

“In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in laws that protect the right to life and many states have passed laws that protect unborn children who feel pain,” he said. “Abortions have declined by 57 percent in South Carolina in direct correlation to the passage of 14 life-protecting laws.”

Mary Spaulding Balch, director of National Right to Life’s Department of State Legislation, also welcomed the vote.

“The smallest and most vulnerable members of our human family need our protection, and South Carolina has taken a vital step to save unborn children who are capable of feeling the excruciating pain of abortions,” she told NRL News Today.

South Carolina is the 17th state to pass an abortion ban. Court action has blocked laws in three states. The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the ban’s constitutionality.

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Wise Taylor writes for The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.