State lawmakers said they plan to introduce a bill that would prohibit marriages for people under 18 years old without any exception, according to The Post and Courier.
An analysis from the newspaper last year found thousands of girls, some as young as 12 years old, were able to get married in South Carolina in the past few decades. A 1962 state law allows for minors who are pregnant or have given birth to marry older men. Additionally, anyone as young as 16 is allowed to get married with parental permission.
Lawmakers are also hoping to eliminate the pregnancy loophole.
These marriages “have devastating, lifelong consequences for individuals and also undermine the health and well-being of our families and communities,” Ann Warner, chief executive of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, told lawmakers, according to The State newspaper. “Women who are married as children have much higher divorce rates, higher school dropout rates, an increased risk of poverty, more medical and mental health problems and a greater vulnerability to domestic violence.”
“Statistically, 16- or 17-year-old girls are among the most vulnerable people to intimate partner violence,” she said. “Yet they are the least protected by the current law.”
According to The Post and Courier, Delaware and New Jersey are the only two states that have a minimum marriage age of 18.
A recent review from The Associated Press found thousands of requests by men to bring in child or adolescent brides to live in the U.S. were approved over the past decade. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl.
The approvals are legal: the Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements. And in weighing petitions for spouses or fiancées, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.
Last year, The Kansas City Star determined Missouri was a “destination wedding spot for 15-year-old child brides” because of its laws. Following the report, the state law changed to prohibit anyone under the age of 16 from getting wed.
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.