South Carolina Senate fails to pass near-total abortion ban after GOP lawmaker filibusters

The failure of the near-total ban on abortion has highlighted the divide among Republicans in South Carolina — and the chasm among Republicans in general — on whether abortion restrictions should include exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

South Carolina House Bill 5399, which passed the state House last month, received enough support from Senate Republicans to ban nearly all abortions in the state, but a filibuster Thursday from GOP state Sen. Tom Davis stopped him in his tracks. Republicans lacked the votes to overcome a filibuster and proceed to a vote on the bill, which requires a higher vote threshold.

“I will not let this (bill) go to a vote unless this body votes and sits me down,” Davis told the Senate Thursday night.

South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis reacts after the Senate passed a new abortion ban in the state legislature in Columbia, South Carolina, USA, September 8, 2022 .

In introducing the amendment, State Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, a Republican, acknowledged that “the votes are not there in the Senate right now to have an abortion ban for six weeks. “.

“I hate to have to admit that,” he said, adding, “You have to have the votes to pass it, and unfortunately we don’t.”

“That’s not where I wanted to be. I was hoping we’d do something pretty aggressive in response to Dobbs,” Massey said as he introduced his amendment. “Hopefully we will make progress. This amendment is definitely progress.”

He claimed the amendment would “strengthen” South Carolina’s law, S.1, against legal challenges and correct issues the state Supreme Court has identified as ambiguity with the law. He argued that if the law is not fixed, South Carolina will be “abortion on demand.”

S. 1 prohibits abortions once what it calls a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which can be as early as four weeks, and more commonly, six weeks into pregnancy.

The Massey Amendment maintains exceptions to the ban for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, but shortens the time limit. The law currently allows exceptions to the ban in cases of rape or incest if the “probable age of the fetus after fertilization” is less than 20 weeks. The amendment would allow an exception for rape or incest until the first trimester, or up to about 14 weeks.

Several senators present Thursday challenged two paragraphs of the amendment, which state that fatal fetal abnormalities would require diagnosis by two separate physicians before an abortion could be performed, and that a physician performing the abortion “must keep a sample DNA from the fetal remains and notify the sheriff of the county in which the abortion was performed.” A sheriff must then retrieve and retain the sample as evidence for 90 days, so that the rapist can be prosecuted.

Massey’s amendment passed by voice vote.

The bill has been sent back to the South Carolina House of Representatives, which will decide whether to accept the changes.

Republicans Divided

House Bill 5399, when it was first introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, did not include exceptions for rape or incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities. Davis had introduced several amendments over the two days to add exceptions and was successful in getting an exemption for fatal fetal anomalies back into the bill.

“I made progress yesterday to improve a bad bill, but I’m nowhere near being able to support it,” Davis said Thursday.

“And I recognize to a large extent that I am breaking with my Republican brethren,” he added.

Republican members were deeply divided on whether the bill should include those exceptions — all three female GOP members of the Senate spoke out strongly against the bill Wednesday morning.

South Carolina State Senator Katrina Frye Shealy listens while debating a new abortion ban in the Columbia State Legislature, South Carolina, USA, September 8, 2022 .

“If you want to believe that God wants you to pass a no exceptions bill that kills mothers and ruins children’s lives, let mothers bring babies home to bury them, then I think you are communicating the wrong way with God or maybe you “I just don’t communicate with him,” Republican Senator Katrina Shealy said Wednesday in a fiery speech in the Senate against her male colleagues.

“I know we disagree on a lot of issues, but hearing you talk about menstrual cycles, conception, how you know when your egg is fertilized or having a baby, I have to tell you it really disgusts me. “

Shealy added: “Yes, I am pro-life. I am also pro-life with the mother, the life she has with her children who have already been born. I care about the children who are forced into adulthood that was invented by a legislature full of men so they could take a victory lap and feel good. You want kids raising kids who will most likely suffer from domestic violence and live in poverty. But you don’t care. file away because you’ve done your job and you’ll forget them once they’re born.”

GOP Senator Sandy Senn also predicted that women would turn out in droves in the November election to vote on the abortion issue, while also calling for the issue to be put on the ballot.

Republican Senator Penry Gustafson called on lawmakers “to face reality. We don’t live in the dark ages.”

“It’s not just a moral decision. And I’m not advocating abortion on demand and I’m not advocating abortion as birth control, but there are other considerations that need to be made” , she told the Senate arguing for the fatal fetal abnormality exceptions.

On Thursday, lawmakers also declined to amend H. 5399 so that its text would be replaced by a joint resolution that would propose a ballot measure that would amend the constitution to recognize a “right to bodily integrity and self-reliance that includes a limited right to abortion”.

Conservative Republican Rep. Josiah Magnuson, who backed the bill, told CNN it was “embarrassing” that the Senate did not pass an abortion ban because “most of these Republicans presented on strong pro-life platforms”.

“We need to pass a bill that truly protects every innocent life,” he said. He said conservative Republicans would be willing to accept what lawmakers can do to restrict abortion, but added, “I don’t think that’s the best we can get.” Magnuson said he supports voting against the Senate’s changes to the bill, which, if the House chooses to do so, would send the bill to a conference committee.

After the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, an ad hoc committee at South Carolina House met in July to develop a “working draft” of H. 5399.

The original bill as they drafted it sought to ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy without exception for rape or incest — which, like in the Senate, was a major point of contention among Republicans in bedroom.

The exceptions were limited to preventing the death of the pregnant woman, substantial risk of death to the pregnant woman due to a physical condition, or “significant physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman”. The bill listed several medical conditions it deemed to pose such a risk to the pregnant woman, including molar pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia and miscarriage.

The House last week in a hurry added in an exception for cases of rape and incest up to 12 weeks after conception, with the requirement to report the complaint of rape or incest to law enforcement, before voting to move the bill forward.

The Senate Medical Affairs Committee then on Tuesday removed the exception for rape and incest for up to 12 weeks after conception, before submitting it to the full Senate.

The Senate-amended bill will now need to be approved by the House again before it can be sent to the governor’s office.

“This amended version does not advance the cause of life in [South Carolina] and I can’t agree with a bill that does nothing,” House ad hoc committee chairman Republican Rep. John McCravy told CNN in an email. “We don’t We haven’t been called back to pass a bill we already have – we were called upon to rewrite our state’s laws after the Dobbs decision. »

CNN’s Dianne Gallagher contributed to this report.

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