Latest effort to ban abortion in SC could be headed for another GOP vs GOP stalemate | Palmetto Politics
COLUMBIA — The recent attempt to make nearly all abortion illegal in South Carolina appears to be heading for another stalemate as the Legislature’s most ardent anti-abortion advocates continue to oppose anything but a ban on conception, despite warnings that the proposal is doomed to fail .
A month after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina’s so-called “Fetal Heartbeat” law was unconstitutional, a Feb. 7 Senate debate opened on a bill being drafted by GOP leaders to reverse that decision make. Its sponsors hope that amending the 2021 law to include judges deleting objections raised in their opinions will result in a six-week ban that can withstand a privacy rights challenge.
And they hoped to get it through quickly with procedural steps that bypassed the committee process altogether.
But those efforts quickly met a snag instead, when Democrats joined with the chamber’s hardest anti-abortionists to support a near-total ban that could snuff out the bill.
Like the 2021 law rejected by the state Supreme Court, the Senate bill would make an abortion illegal once an ultrasound detects cardiac activity, which generally occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy. It also retains the exceptions to the law, with a new deadline for victims of rape or incest to make a decision within three months instead of 5½ months.
“The Senate doesn’t have the votes to pass anything beyond that,” Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said of R-Edgefield’s tougher ban.
He reiterated a line he kept saying last fall when a proposal to ban abortions at conception expired in November and House GOP leaders refused to accept anything less.
The repeated warning came as House Republicans braced for a rerun, taking their latest contraception bill from the Judiciary Committee along party lines to House floor.
Sen. Richard Cash, recognizing that Republicans’ position in the House of Representatives has not changed, proposed copying that chamber’s near-total ban. Otherwise, the Anderson County Republican said, another impasse lies ahead with the House of Representatives.
His amendment to replace the Senate bill with the House version could mean the Senate can’t pass anything.
The Senate adjourned for the day after an attempt to get rid of Cash’s amendment failed between midnight and 5 p.m. All Democrats joined the uncompromising Republicans in voting.
Debate on the amendment will continue on February 8th.
“I don’t think we’re stuck anymore,” Massey said. “My Republican friends, who have been joined by the 12 Democrats, I’m sure they understand why the Democrats voted with them. I don’t think it’s that difficult to understand.”
He stressed that an ongoing Republican standoff will keep the state under a 2016 law allowing abortions for 5½ months.
“The effect is that South Carolina’s law is the mildest of all,” he said. “South Carolina has become an abortion destination because our laws are significantly weaker than anywhere around us, and I don’t think there’s an argument about that.”
Democratic Senator Ronnie Sabb argued that if Republicans are so confident that South Carolinians want to ban abortion, they should be ready to put the question to voters on the ballot.
Attempts during last fall’s debate to get him on the November ballot were unsuccessful.
“Do we really want to know where the South Carolinians stand?” asked the Democrat from Greeleyville. “If we believe it, prove it. Let voters participate in this issue.”
Ruling Legislature Republicans have criticized the Jan. 5 judges’ decision as exceeding their powers. It brought intense scrutiny to the race to replace the lead opinion writer, Judge Kaye Hearn, who is due to retire due to the state’s mandatory age limit for judges. The criticism eventually led to the two surrogate wives retiring.
The Legislature is scheduled to elect Circuit Court Judge Gary Hill to replace Hearn on February 8, making South Carolina the only state in the nation with an all-male Supreme Court.
Follow Sean Adcox on Twitter at @seannaadcox_pc.