On Tuesday, the South Carolina Senate passed a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy after a filibuster led by five female senators, including three Republicans, failed to block the bill. The bill would significantly reduce access to abortions in the state, which has become an unexpected destination for women seeking the procedure since nearly every other Southern state has banned abortions.
The legislation now goes to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who has said he will sign the bill. The ban will almost certainly be challenged by abortion rights advocates in court, where it will test a January ruling by the state Supreme Court that overturned a previous six-week ban and put a stipulation in the state constitution. abortion rights.
The legislation exposed divisions among Republicans over restrictions on abortion, a year that has divided other legislatures since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, returning abortion regulation to the states.
obstructive women, Self-proclaimed “Sister Senator”, Argues that the bill puts up too many hurdles and few people will be able to get abortions in South Carolina. Because pregnancy is thought to start on the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period, six weeks is about two weeks after she misses her period, before many women know they’re pregnant.
The bill requires any woman seeking an abortion to first undergo two on-site doctor visits and two ultrasounds. Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Republican woman who opposed the six-week ban, said Tuesday: “We are not God. We need to let people make their own decisions.”
The governor convened a rare special session of the Legislature to try to pass a ban, seeking to resolve an impasse between the House and Senate.
While both chambers are controlled by Republicans, the House is more conservative and has pushed the Senate three times to pass a bill that would ban nearly all abortions from conception. Three times, women in the Senate and three male Republican colleagues successfully filibustered. Republican women are instead advocating a 12-week ban, or putting the issue to voters on a ballot.
As a compromise, the two Republican women agreed to bans for six weeks, except for medical emergencies, fatal fetal diagnoses and cases of rape and incest. The Senate passed the bill, but had to vote again because the House added an amendment.
The women warned their House colleagues not to amend the bill: “Don’t touch a semicolon,” said Republican Senator Sandy Senn. Instead, the House added amendments that the women said would effectively ban all abortions.
The amendments included requirements for doctor visits and ultrasounds and removed provisions that would have allowed minors under 12 weeks to have an abortion or seek a judge’s waiver without parental consent. Opponents of the bill point out that the state’s three abortion clinics currently have waits of two to three weeks for appointments, and adding the requirement for more visits would mean no one would be able to get legal abortions.
The House version also added factual statements criticized by the state Supreme Court when it lifted the previous six-week moratorium. Some say heart activity that can be noticed around six weeks is a “key indicator” of whether the fetus will be born alive. Another said the state “has a pressing interest in protecting the health of a woman and the life of her unborn child from the moment she becomes pregnant”.
Obstructive lawmakers argued that this could be seen as a declaration that the fetus is a person, opening the door to a ban on conception.
The bill also allows state boards of medical examiners to revoke the license of any doctor who violates the law and allows anyone to file a complaint. Parents of minors can file civil lawsuits against doctors who perform abortions.
Republican leadership in the legislature has been eager to pass a ban that could challenge the state Supreme Court ruling starting in January. The judge who wrote the decision, the only woman on the bench, made good reference to the expansion of women’s rights since the Roe decision in 1973.
But she soon retired and was replaced by a man, making South Carolina the only state with an all-male high court.
Republicans, including women who tried to block the bill, have been concerned about an increase in the number of abortions in the state since other southern states enacted their bans. About half of the abortions in recent months involved residents of other states, according to state health officials.
Days before the debate, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey declared South Carolina had become “the abortion capital of the Southeast.”
“Pro-choice members of the Senate think that’s unacceptable,” he said.