South Carolina Senate approves bill banning most abortions after 6 weeks pregnant

COLUMBIA, SC — The South Carolina Senate on Tuesday approved a bill banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy — before most people know they are pregnant — and sent it to the governor who promised to sign it.

The proposal reinstates a ban South Carolina had in place when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year — a ban that, when it went into effect, was struck down by the state’s highest court because it violated the state Constitution’s right to privacy.

Republicans have sought a response to the ruling as it left abortion legal until 22 weeks of pregnancy and sharply increased the number of abortions performed in South Carolina when most other southern states have enacted laws. stricter laws.

South Carolina is one of the last strongholds in the region for those seeking legal abortions, but that status will likely end soon.

Most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy will be banned in North Carolina starting July 1 after the state’s Republican-controlled legislature successfully overruled the Democratic governor’s veto last week. Abortion is banned or severely restricted in much of the South, including bans during pregnancy in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. In Georgia, it’s only allowed for the first six weeks.

South Carolina’s bill includes exceptions for fatal fetal abnormalities, life and health of the patient, and rape or incest up to 12 weeks. The doctors could face felony charges that carry up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said he would sign the bill.

The Republican-led Senate’s opportunity to pass the bill came after the South Carolina House backed down on a proposal to ban abortion at conception almost entirely. The senators had been unable to get the votes for this proposal after three different tries.

The vote also came after the three Senate Republican women urged fellow members of their party to pass a 12-week abortion ban as they fought additional restrictions a month after helping make systematic filibuster an almost total ban. They joined all Democrats in voting against the bill.

The senators entered the State House together on Tuesday to the cheers of dozens of abortion-rights supporters gathered on the ground floor. The five threaded buttons that said “elect more women”.

In scathing speeches, the three Republican women said the 12-week proposal did not give women enough time to make a decision, and they criticized changes like the one requiring child support by conception as ridiculous. Republican Senator Katrina Shealy endorsed a 12-week ban as a “real compromise.”

Shealy and Republican Senator Penry Gustafson have pushed back against claims that they are not true Christians because of their positions.

“We in the South Carolina Legislative Assembly are not God. We don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life. We don’t have the right to make decisions for anyone else,” Shealy said.

House Republicans also removed a section of the measure allowing minors to petition the court for an abortion up to 12 weeks pregnant.

Republican Majority Leader Shane Massey last week introduced new regulations and definitions inserted by the Republican-dominated South Carolina House in a process slowed by hundreds of amendments from Democrats out of two days.

This week marks the fourth time the chamber has considered abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The 15 Senate Democrats, united against the two abortion bans, have largely let the Republican majority debate the issue among themselves. Opponents argue that South Carolina’s high maternal mortality rates — with even poorer outcomes among black patients — would worsen under the new restrictions.

Abortion currently remains legal for 22 weeks in South Carolina, though other regulations largely block access after the first trimester at the state’s three clinics. But the law remained unchanged amid Republican disagreement over how much to restrict access that only recently evolved into a resolution.

Republican leaders noted preliminary data from the state health department that shows a growing number of abortions in South Carolina.

The action comes a week after Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly moved to enact a 12-week abortion ban by overriding the Democratic governor’s veto – moving Virginia closer to being the last state in the area with relatively easy access.

Lawmakers anticipate legal challenges to any ban that eventually becomes law. The South Carolina Supreme Court struck down a similar 2021 law as a privacy violation of the state constitution in a 3-2 ruling in January. But many Republicans believe the latest version would stand after changes to both the language of the proposal and the composition of the court.

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