State Watch

Near-total abortion ban advances in South Carolina

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A South Carolina House committee advanced a near-total abortion ban largely along party lines in a 13-7 vote on Tuesday.

The bill, which was advanced out of the Republican-controlled state House Judiciary Committee, would prohibit abortions in the state with exceptions in cases where the life or health of the mother is at risk. Five committee members did not cast a vote.

“The No. 1 thing that this bill does is to end the practice of abortion being used as birth control in our state,” state Rep. John McCravy (R), who helped draft the bill, said at Tuesday’s hearing.

“The No. 1 thing the bill does not do is to endanger the health care of women in any way,” he added. “In fact, this was the No. 1 misconception we found repeated in the public hearing.”

Abortion in the state is currently permitted until cardiac activity is detected in the fetus, generally around six weeks into pregnancy. Doctors must conduct an ultrasound before performing an abortion to see if a heartbeat can be detected.

The new bill now heads to the state House floor for consideration.

Republicans in the chamber introduced the bill 10 days after a Supreme Court draft opinion leaked in May showing justices were poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. The court ultimately issued its final opinion in the case in June that largely mirrored the leaked draft and overturned the constitutional right to abortion.

The decision led to efforts by Republican state lawmakers to enact new abortion restrictions, while some states had so-called trigger laws that automatically implemented restrictions following the court’s ruling.

The court’s decision, largely due to a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas, has also sparked fears that the justices will ultimately overturn constitutional protections for contraception access.

McCravy at Tuesday’s hearing emphasized that the South Carolina bill would not restrict contraception access, noting language lawmakers added to clarify legal protections for contraceptives.

The bill does not allow the prosecution of the mother for abortions, but it makes it illegal for physicians to perform the procedure unless it prevents the death, a substantial risk of death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant person.

The physician in those cases is obligated to make “reasonable” medical efforts to preserve the life of the unborn child if it can be done while avoiding risking the mother’s life or physical health.

Legal action can be brought by the unborn child’s father, aunts, uncles, grandparents or the person upon whom the abortion was performed. Plaintiffs are entitled to $10,000 in statutory damages for each violation.

“We talk about Christianity, this is like B.C.-type mentality,” said state Rep. Justin Bamberg (D).

At the hearing, he invoked the story of a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who reportedly was raped and had to travel across state lines to receive an abortion, calling the South Carolina bill “absurd” and “disgusting to a lot of people.”

“It’s that archaic, and I don’t understand how we’re here and making this decision and it’s so rushed,” said Bamberg.

Tags abortion Abortion abortion rights Clarence Thomas Roe v. Wade South Carolina South Carolina
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