South Carolina Senate passes 6-week abortion ban

The South Carolina Senate on Tuesday passed a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, after a filibuster led by five senators, including three Republicans, failed to block it. The bill will drastically reduce access to abortion in a state that has become an unexpected destination for women seeking the procedure, as nearly every other state in the South has moved to bans.

The legislation is now headed to Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican who has said he will sign it. Abortion rights advocates said they would challenge the ban in court, where they would test a state Supreme Court ruling in January that overturned a previous six-week ban and recognized the right to abortion in the state constitution.

The legislation had revealed divisions among Republicans over how far to go in restricting abortion, a fight that has unfolded in other legislatures in the year since the US Supreme Court United overturned Roe v. Wade, returning abortion regulation to the states.

The women who filibustered, calling themselves the “Senator Sisters,” argued that the bill created so many barriers that almost no one would be able to get an abortion in South Carolina. Since pregnancy is considered to start on the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period, six weeks is about two weeks after she missed a period, before many women know they are pregnant.

The bill requires any woman seeking an abortion to first have two doctor visits and two ultrasounds. Senator Katrina Shealy, one of the Republican women who opposed the six-week ban, said Tuesday, “We are not God. We have to let people make their own decisions. »

Although the bill provides exceptions for victims of rape and incest, and in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities or when the woman’s life and health are in danger, these exceptions are only available until 12 weeks pregnant.

The governor had called a rare special session of the legislature to try to pass a ban, seeking to resolve a standoff between the House and Senate.

While both chambers are controlled by Republicans, the House is more conservative and has lobbied three times for the Senate to pass a bill banning nearly all abortions from conception. On three occasions, Senate women and three male Republican colleagues successfully filibustered. Republican women argued instead for a 12-week ban, or to put the question to voters in a ballot measure.

Their Republican colleagues in the Senate rejected the 12-week proposal, with Senator Richard Cash saying it would lead to “abortion on demand” in South Carolina.

Two of the Republican women had accepted, as a compromise, a six-week ban with exceptions for medical emergencies, fatal fetal diagnoses and cases of rape and incest. The Senate passed this bill, but because the House added amendments, it had to vote again.

The women had warned their colleagues in the House not to make changes to the bill: “Don’t move a semicolon,” said Senator Sandy Senn, a Republican. Instead, the House added amendments that the women said would effectively ban all abortions.

The changes included requirements for doctor visits and ultrasounds, and removed a provision that would have given minors up to 12 weeks to get an abortion or seek a waiver from a judge if they couldn’t get parental consent. . Opponents of the bill noted that the state’s three abortion clinics currently have a two- or three-week wait for an appointment, and that adding requirements for more visits would mean no one could get a legal abortion.

The House version also added statements of fact that the state Supreme Court criticized when it struck down the previous six-week ban. Cardiac activity, which can be noticed around six weeks, is said to be a “key indicator” that a fetus will result in a live birth. Another asserts that the state has “a compelling interest from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to protect the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child.”

Lawmakers who have filibustered have argued that it could be seen as a statement that a fetus is a person, opening the door to a ban on conception. The bill also requires fathers to pay child support from conception.

It also allows the state Board of Medical Examiners to revoke the medical license of any doctor who breaks the law and allows anyone to file a complaint. The parents of a minor can bring a civil action against a doctor who performed an abortion.

The Republican leadership of the legislature had been keen to pass a ban that could challenge the state Supreme Court’s ruling beginning in January. The judge who wrote that decision was the only woman on the bench, and she made ample reference to the expansion of women’s rights since the Roe decision in 1973.

But she retired soon after and was replaced by a man, making South Carolina the only state with an all-male high court.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, an anti-abortion group, celebrated the bill’s passage, thanking Republicans in South Carolina for their “perseverance.”

“This action will save thousands of people every year who will enrich the lives of others and the state of South Carolina,” said Caitlin Connors, the group’s regional director for the south.

Republicans, including women who tried to obstruct the bill, had worried about the rising number of abortions in the state since other Southern states enacted bans. According to state health officials, about half of all abortions in recent months have involved residents of other states.

In the days leading up to the debate, Shane Massey, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, said South Carolina had become “the abortion capital of the Southeast.”

“Pro-life members of the Senate think this is unacceptable,” he said.

Ahead of the final vote on Tuesday evening, the six-week ban was fiercely condemned by Republican senators and their fellow Democrats.

“When you wake up, when your sisters wake up, when your daughters wake up and you want to know who took away your rights, it was the Republicans,” said Brad Hutto, the Democratic Senate Minority Leader.


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