South Carolina Republicans Advance on New Abortion Restrictions

South Carolina Republicans are pushing new abortion restrictions in a belated attempt to restrict access after a near-total ban failed last month.

A Senate bill that would ban abortion except in the first few weeks of pregnancy is moving fast in the South Carolina House of Representatives in the first sign that Republican leaders may be close to restoring the limits passed in 2021 but struck down by the state Supreme Court.

The effort cleared two hurdles Tuesday. Lawmakers advanced the proposal through a morning subcommittee meeting with an hour of public comment and a full committee meeting that lasted more than three hours.

The measure would ban abortion when an ultrasound detects heart activity, around six weeks and before most people know they are pregnant. Includes exceptions for fatal fetal anomaly, rape, incest, and patient life and health up to 12 weeks. The doctors could face felony charges that carry a $10,000 fine and two years in prison for violations.

But the House committee voted Tuesday to insert many provisions of the failed near-total ban on the camera. The bill now describes specific medical conditions such as ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage in a list of exceptions to the ban. It also requires parents to pay retroactive child support from conception and cover half of all medical expenses.

Republican Majority Leader David Hiott said Senate negotiators approved the changes. But a second Senate approval is not guaranteed.

The move comes two weeks after the only five women in the South Carolina Senate blocked a House bill banning nearly all abortions, and six Republicans helped defeat any chance of it becoming law this year. anus.

Two of the three Republican women attended the Tuesday morning deliberations. All three told The Associated Press that they do not support any change.

“We don’t have to put everything in the kitchen sink with this thing,” said state Sen. Penry Gustafson. “Let’s get him across the finish line so we can reduce abortions.”

She said House Republicans should have passed the original Senate bill earlier this year.

State Sen. Sandy Senn said she did not expect the new version to pass the Senate, but added that “crazier things have happened.”

“We had told them if they want it passed, don’t move a single semicolon,” said Senn, who voted against the bill in February. “They were very, very substantive changes. So, yes, we will be obstructing.”

The bill now faces a full House vote before returning to the Senate. The session is scheduled to end on May 11. But Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has said he will exercise his power to call lawmakers next week if they fail to meet a number of Republican priorities.

Abortion remains legal up to 22 weeks pregnant in South Carolina. The conservative General Assembly has been unable to reach an agreement on when to ban abortion after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled 3-2 this January that a 2021 ban when heart activity is detected violates the state’s right to privacy. .

Republican leaders hope the new restrictions will withstand legal scrutiny after changing the language of the measure and voting this February on a new state Supreme Court justice.

An all-male court would hear any challenges that reach the state supreme court. Justice Gary Hill replaced the only justice, Kaye Hearn, who had reached mandatory retirement age and authored the lead opinion in the abortion decision.

Republican state Rep. Jay Jordan stressed Tuesday that the justices sent the ball “back to our court” to craft new law for consideration.

Democratic state Rep. Spencer Wetmore accused her colleagues of also reshuffling the South Carolina Supreme Court. Jordan responded that all courts change membership.

The committee debate raged late into the night as Republicans defeated attempts to expand Medicaid coverage or reduce the penalty for doctors. Democrats said threatening medical professionals with felony prosecution would drive them away from a state where 15 counties no longer have OB/GYNs.

Another failed amendment would have expanded the exceptions for “serious fetal anomalies” and not just for “fatal fetal anomalies.”

A Charleston woman had testified that hospital attorneys determined that a complicated health defect discovered last July during her 18-week anatomical exam did not count as a “fatal fetal anomaly.” Jill Hartle said the lawmakers’ restrictions added to the stress of an “excruciating decision.” forcing her to obtain abortion services in Washington, D.C.

“If these bans continue to be imposed, this is the biggest violation of privacy that any government could impose,” Hartle said. “The Republican Party that I used to align myself with wanted less government. But these bills are total control.”


James Pollard is a staff member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on covert issues.

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