Exceptions for rape, incest removed as South Carolina lawmakers advance 'heartbeat' abortion bill

Exceptions for rape, incest removed as South Carolina lawmakers advance 'heartbeat' abortion bill

A South Carolina Senate subcommittee on Tuesday advanced a “heartbeat” abortion bill after Republican lawmakers removed exceptions for rape and incest.

The bill, which would ban abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically as early as six to eight weeks after conception, passed the committee by a 4-3 vote, according to the Post and Courier.

Lawmakers voted to strike the exceptions after they were included in a House bill that passed that chamber in a 70-31 vote earlier this year.

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The measure is expected to advance through the full Senate committee when it hears the bill next month. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has said he would sign the bill into law if it were to reach his desk.

Under the proposed legislation, doctors who perform abortions after a heartbeat is detected would face criminal charges. The bill does include an exception if the pregnancy puts the mother's life at risk.  

State Sen. Richard Cash (R), who proposed removing the exceptions for rape and incest from the bill, said the committee was not overly concerned about the version of the bill the House passed.

“I understand the feelings ran high on both sides, but each chamber has to do its own duty,” Cash said after the subcommittee vote, according to the Post and Courier.

The exceptions were added in the version passed by the House at the urging state Rep. Nancy Mace (R), who shared her own experience as a survivor of sexual assault.

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D) said removing the exceptions for rape and incest takes South Carolina’s version of the “heartbeat” abortion bill farther than other states and sets them up for a lawsuit.

“I view this amendment, frankly, as a poison pill,” she said.

Cash was unfazed by a federal court recently striking down a similar law that was passed in Georgia.

“If we’re going to just base our decisions on what a court might say, we won’t do much,” Cash said.