State Watch

South Carolina Senate rejects near-total abortion ban

The South Carolina Senate failed to pass a ban on abortions earlier than six weeks into pregnancy on Thursday.

The controversial bill was altered over two days of debate on the floor, moving it closer to the current South Carolina abortion ban that is tied up in court.

“This is not where I wanted to be. I was hoping we’d be more aggressive, but it’s clear to me the votes are not there in the Senate for an abortion ban before six weeks,” said state Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R) in response to the two days of debate over the initial proposal.

The altered law, passed by a 27-16 vote, joins the state’s current abortion law in banning abortion after six weeks, at which point fetal cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound.

The “fetal heartbeat” law was passed last year but only took effect after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade.

The law was suspended by the South Carolina Supreme Court this summer for potentially violating the state constitution.

The new law differs from the old heartbeat law in limiting exceptions, allowing victims of rape and incest three months to get abortions rather than the initially decided five months.

The law will require doctors to collect DNA samples from aborted fetuses to aid law enforcement in prosecuting rapists.

The law also requires two doctors to confirm a diagnosis that a fetus will be unable to survive outside of the womb, meaning that it can be aborted based on the law’s exceptions.

State Sen. Sandy Senn, one of two Republicans who opposed the final measure, criticized the new bill for its lack of progress despite the minor changes between the old and new abortion bans.

“We’ve been here for two days and two nights, and we’re back basically to the same bill we passed a year ago and the Supreme Court has taken off the table at least temporarily,” she said.

Planned Parenthood weighed in on the bill on Friday, criticizing it and other restrictive abortion bills written in the wake of Dobbs.

“Make no mistake: no matter how many narrow exceptions are written into this dangerous bill, it will cause chaos in the health care system and result in people being denied life-saving care,” wrote Vicki Ringer, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

Updated at 10:30 a.m.

Tags abortion ban Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Roe v. Wade Sandy Senn Shane Massey South Carolina South Carolina Senate South Carolina Supreme Court

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