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South Carolina Senate Passes 6-Week Abortion Ban, Sends Bill to Governor

The South Carolina Senate on Tuesday voted to ban abortion at about six weeks gestation after ending a filibuster by the five female senators in the chamber, who had become the bill’s most vocal opponents. .

The abortion measure, which passed 27 to 19, includes exceptions for the life and health of the patient, for fatal fetal abnormalities, and up to 12 weeks for cases of rape and incest. Physicians who violate this will lose their license and face possible civil lawsuits. felony charges, a fine of up to $10,000 and two years in prison.

The ban gives those under 16 – the age of consent in South Carolina – who seek an abortion without parental consent six weeks to get permission from a judge, unless they are victims of rape or incest. Opponents of the ban said that was not enough time. Proponents argued that since minors cannot consent by law, they would be covered by the rape exception and given 12 weeks.

The bill also requires the “biological father” to pay alimony upon conception, a provision that critics say establishes the “personhood” of the fetus and could be used by abortion advocates to promote other “personality” laws in the state.

The ban is now heading for Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who signed a similar measure two years ago that was blocked by the South Carolina Supreme Court and is expected to sign the new ban. It will enter into force with his signature.

Republicans, who hold 30 of 46 Senate seats, needed 26 votes to end the debate. The swing vote turned out to be Senator Tom Davis (R), who voted to end the debate and later for the ban after supporting ban opponents in the past.

Davis, a Beaufort attorney who described himself in an interview with The Post ahead of the vote as “fiscally conservative, socially libertarian,” said he fielded calls from voters on both sides of the issue, consulted his three adult daughters, his ex-wife, OBGYNs and his priest. Davis said the issue came down to “a balance of rights.”

“At some point, the state’s right to see the unborn child take precedence over a woman’s right to her body,” Davis said.

After voting to end the debate, Davis said in a message to the Post that he preferred the six-week ban to the existing 22-week limit. “We had to put this to a vote one way or another,” he said. “All senators who wanted to be heard have been heard.”

Opponents said South Carolina’s high maternal death rates — even higher among black patients — would worsen under the ban. On Tuesday, senators who opposed the bill noted that it would require doctors who perform abortions on victims of rape or incest to notify local sheriffs and provide their address, in some cases the same address as the alleged perpetrator.

“It’s probably a deterrent thing to keep him from having an abortion,” Republican Senator Katrina Shealy said.

“We are not morality police and you cannot be someone else’s conscience,” she later added. “We have to let people make those decisions for themselves.”

South Carolina became an abortion battleground after Roe vs. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in June. An earlier ban on abortion after fetal heart activity was detected at around six weeks took effect briefly over the summer, before being blocked by the courts. This allowed abortion to continue in the state until 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The state reported more than 1,000 abortions in each of the first three months of the year, with nearly half of the patients coming from out of state, according to interim state health records lawmakers. State of South Carolina cited during Tuesday’s debate. Abortion advocates saw it as a regional haven. Opponents have complained that he has become a magnet for those asking for the procedure.

“South Carolina has become the abortion capital of the Southeast,” Republican Majority Leader Sen. A. Shane Massey said during the debate. Since surrounding states enacted restrictions, he said, “we’re catching an overflow from all of these states.”

The state has drawn the attention of advocates on both sides of the anti-abortion fight, emblematic of some of the pushbacks from strict bans passed in recent years in conservative-leaning states across the country. Hardline conservatives have pushed states to restrict most abortions, while some GOP lawmakers have resisted near-total bans, a reaction some party members say to the sustained political backlash since the cancellation of the most high court of the country. Deer.

Most Southern states except Virginia have implemented restrictions on abortion, including North Carolina, where a Republican supermajority overruled the governor’s veto last week to pass a ban of 12 weeks which significantly reduces the window for legal abortions.

The Republican-controlled house in South Carolina has tried to ban most abortions at conception. But the Senate rejected a near-total ban three times, with filibuster by female members of the chamber: Shealy and two other Republicans, a Democrat and an independent who called themselves the “Senator Sisters.” Last week, the House approved the Senate’s roughly six-week ban, returning it with a slew of amendments.

Tuesday, Shealy without success proposed raising the ban to 12 weeks, which Senate leaders and abortion opponents have rejected in the past, since most abortions are performed before the first trimester. She called 12 weeks “a real compromise,” echoing rhetoric from Republicans in neighboring North Carolina about a similar ban GOP lawmakers recently approved there.

Shealy, the state’s first female senator, voted for the six-week ban earlier this year when it didn’t pass, but said she’s since changed her mind and voted against it. Tuesday.

“We have to let families think about it and we don’t,” she said of the ban in an interview with The Post ahead of the vote. “We are rushing them into a decision.”

Shealy accused supporters of the ban of “voting for political reasons” ahead of next year’s election and said the ban was “not what the people of South Carolina want”.

She said she called male colleagues ahead of the vote, including two senators whose daughters work for her as Senate pages, and urged them not to support it.

“I told them to go ask your daughters, go ask your wives, what do they think? Don’t see it as your political future. Think of it as their future,” she said.

State Sen. Sandy Senn, who voted against the ban, said his fellow Republicans – many of whom are running for office next year – would face a tally at the polls for their vote in favor of the ban. . In last fall’s midterm elections, abortion rights groups won major victories even in conservative states, rolling back ballot measures in places like Kansas and Kentucky.

“The Republican Party is going to lose if we continue with these extreme positions,” she said.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic and two doctors filed a lawsuit to block the earlier six-week ban after it took effect last June. Earlier this year, the state The Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that the law violated the right to privacy in the state Constitution. The new ban will test that opinion, written by the court’s only female judge, who has since been forced into retirement due to age limits. She was replaced by the Legislature with a male judge, making South Carolina the only all-male state Supreme Court in the nation. The Tories expect any challenge to the measure passed on Tuesday to be dismissed by the court.

State Senator Stephen Goldfinch, a Republican lawyer preparing to deploy June 15 for six months with the South Carolina National Guard in Djibouti, voted to ban and said he found the exemptions to the ban made it “acceptable” and that he believed the new ban would withstand legal challenges.

“We have very talented lawyers who specifically wrote this one to avoid that,” he said.

Ahead of the vote, Molly Rivera, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said the group plans to challenge the new measure as early as Wednesday, with the same plaintiffs as the previous lawsuit.

Unless the new ban is blocked, abortion advocates in South Carolina will soon begin sending patients to Maryland and Washington, D.C., said Ashlyn Preaux, executive director of Columbia, Palmetto State Abortion Fund, based in South Carolina, which helps those seeking an abortion with the cost of paperwork and travel.

“It gets more expensive the further you go,” she said, as people have to travel farther, stay overnight, find daycare and take time off work.

“It’s going to put a bigger burden on them,” she said.


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