On Wednesday evening, the South Carolina Senate voted to outlaw virtually all abortions in South Carolina.
The Legislature’s upper chamber voted 28-10 to allow exceptions only in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergencies that could seriously harm the pregnant woman or threaten her life.
The bill faces long odds, however, it is up against a Democratic filibuster that could put off a final Senate vote until after lawmakers adjourn for the year.
If passed, the new law almost certainly would spark a court challenge. According to Senate Republicans who want to overturn the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming abortion rights, that is the goal.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) said, “It’s designed to give the court an opportunity to revisit Roe v. Wade.”
According to the democrat who suggested Republicans adopt it, the proposal likely would ban about 97 percent of the roughly 5,700 abortions performed in South Carolina each year.
State Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) said, “It’s clearly unconstitutional from my point of view.On Wednesday, just before 10 p.m., Hutto proposed the expanded abortion ban as an amendment to a House bill outlawing “dismemberment” abortion, which is a rare procedure that was used to terminate 22 pregnancies in 2016.
Hutto said his aim was to give Senate Republicans a chance to vote on the bill they really want so that South Carolina Legislature doesn’t continue to be bogged down year after year with debates on more nuanced abortion restrictions.
Hutto said that settling the abortion issue would mean S.C. lawmakers can get to other important topics, including South Carolina’s $9 billion nuclear fiasco.
Hutto, an attorney who said he is confident the courts would strike down the abortion ban in a court challenge said, “It’s an attempt to get it to the courts so we don’t have to keep debating it over and over and over.”
Debate on the “dismemberment” ban had lasted two days in the Senate. Democrats planned to filibuster several more days — potentially until the end of the legislative session next week.
Shortly after Hutto proposed his amendment, it was adopted 24-1. State Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston) cast the lone vote opposing the amendment as most Democrats sat on the sidelines.
About an hour later, the Senate voted for the overall bill 28-10. It still needs one more vote to pass the Senate, and Republicans expect Democrats to filibuster the amended proposal.
If the bill passes the Senate, it will head back to the GOP-controlled House for approval of the proposal, as amended by the Senate.
If approved there, it would go to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who has pledged to sign into law any pro-life bills the General Assembly sends him.
The Senate proposal completely replaces the previous House bill under debate, which would have made illegal so-called dismemberment abortions, rare procedures in which a doctor uses forceps to pull apart a fetus and remove it piece by piece.
Those procedures — used to terminate late-term pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother or abort a non-viable fetus — accounted for 22 of the 5,736 abortions in South Carolina in 2016, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
On the Senate floor, Hutto told Senate Republicans to drop the “dismemberment” debate and vote for the law they really wanted.
Hutto said, “If you want to vote on it, this is your vote. If you want to dance on this one, you can see it in the commercials when you get home for your next election.”