COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — The South Carolina House on Tuesday approved a bill that prohibits Abortion except in cases of pregnancy caused by rape or incest.
The chamber initially rejected the bill without the exceptions by eight votes. But once Republicans saw the result, they quickly went through a number of complex procedures and votes to bring the bill back from the brink of failure.
The exceptions were added by enough lawmakers shouting “yes” and the bill passed by a vote of 67-38.
The bill still has a routine vote before going to the Senate, where tougher bans on abortions have faced tougher fights.
The bill allows abortions up to 12 weeks after conception if a woman tells a doctor she has been raped. The doctor must tell the woman that he will report the rape to the county sheriff and has 24 hours after the procedure to give deputies the woman’s name and contact information. It also allows abortions to save a mother’s life.
Some of the more conservative House lawmakers said Monday they would not support a bill with exceptions for rape and incest, but in the final vote they changed their minds.
“But here’s the thing – at the end of the day, we passed a good pro-life bill in South Carolina,” said Republican Rep. John McCravy, who led the bill through the House.
The dizzying parliamentary maneuvering came after Democrats joined with those conservatives to try to keep the bill as restrictive as possible.
Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics as they also rejected an amendment supporters say would allow abortion for women carrying fetuses with medical problems, leaving them unlikely to be born alive .
“South Carolina ladies, they play with your body,” Republican Rep. Micah Caskey said.
Democrats said they no longer wanted to debate abortion after the General Assembly agreed to a six-week ban in 2021, but Republicans decided to call a special session after Roe v. Wade.
“It’s not our bill. It’s not us trying to control their bodies,” Democratic Rep. Leon Stavrinakis said.
The leader of a nonprofit that fights for women’s health and economic rights was offended that Republicans view the debate as a game.
“We need to get past seeing this as a political game and start seeing the impact it has on the lives of real people. And I’m afraid that was lost in the Statehouse today,” said Ann Warner, CEO of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network.
Republicans, who have nearly twice as many members as Democrats, took an hour-long break just before the vote to get their more conservative members to agree to the exceptions.
Other changes rejected in the debate included proponents of language that would protect in vitro fertilization and birth control, and proposals that would allow prosecutors to charge a woman with murder for having an abortion.
About 100 people gathered in the lobby of the Statehouse for the debate. They chanted phrases such as “Abortion is health care” and “My body, my choice” and blew horns at passing cars. Law enforcement closed the Chamber Gallery on Tuesday.
South Carolina currently has a six-week ban but the South Carolina Supreme Court suspended the law earlier this month as judges rule on a lawsuit for Planned Parenthood that says the ban is an unreasonable invasion of privacy under the state constitution. The ruling leaves South Carolina’s abortion ban at 20 weeks for now.
Earlier in August Indiana passed a near-total ban due to come into force on September 15 with exceptions for rape, incest and if the mother’s life is in danger. West Virginia House and Senate couldn’t agree on stricter rules on abortion at a July session.
South Carolina leaders have been watching these developments carefully, as well as events several weeks ago in Kansas, where nearly 60% of voters rejected a ballot measure this would have allowed the conservative state legislature to ban abortion. Republican Donald Trump secured 56% of the 2020 presidential vote in Kansas. Trump won 55% in South Carolina.
The bill currently allows abortions if a mother’s life is in danger, then lists a number of different medical emergencies that would fall under that exception.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster did not comment on this specific bill, but said he would like to see a day when there are no more abortions in the state.
“This is a good starting point for the Senate to begin its deliberations,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said.