Major changes to South Carolina’s abortion laws unlikely after Supreme Court ruling

South Carolina’s conservative lawmakers voted Tuesday to make no changes to the state’s abortion laws after the US Supreme Court’s ruling this summer, meaning abortion rules likely won’t become more restrictive.

South Carolina was for decades at the forefront of passing more restrictive abortion laws that challenged Roe v. Wade before the landmark case was overturned this summer.

But the state that helped lead the nation in requiring ultrasounds, parental consent and 24-hour waiting periods before abortions is deadlocked during a special session. The Senate could muster just enough votes to amend South Carolina’s current six-week ban — which isn’t even in effect right now because of a state Supreme Court challenge.

The House began its session on Tuesday by rejecting a proposal by Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter to put the right to abortion before voters in a constitutional amendment.

“Why are you afraid to let the people decide?” asked the Cobb-Hunter. “Are you afraid you’ll be proven wrong? I think it is.”

By rejecting the Senate version, it allows a group of three lawmakers from each chamber to work on a compromise between the Senate bill and the House version, which would have banned nearly all abortions with exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest or that threaten the life of the mother up to 12 weeks after conception.

But Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey isn’t sure there’s room to negotiate.

The Republican said senators indicated earlier this month that there are not enough votes in the 46-member House for a ban earlier than six weeks. The three Senate women joined two other Republicans in opposing the near-total abortion ban, leaving the chamber short of the votes needed to end a potential split.

The bill before the House maintains the ban on abortions after an ultrasound that determines there is heart activity in a fetus, which is usually around six weeks. It reduces the time rape and incest victims who become pregnant can seek an abortion from 20 weeks to about 12 weeks and requires DNA from the aborted fetus in those cases to be collected for police. It also clarifies protections for doctors who order an abortion if it is determined that the fetus cannot live outside the womb.

For lawmakers and groups who have spent decades trying to end all abortions, it’s a disappointing end to what looked so promising after leaders of the Republican-dominated General Assembly quickly called a special session after the draft opinion leaked that the Supreme The US court was ready to let the states decide the abortion issue for themselves.

“I can’t agree to a bill that does nothing. We weren’t called to pass a bill we already have — we were called to rewrite our state laws,” said Rep. John McCravy, the Republican who authored the House bill.

McCravey has said he plans to join about a dozen of the most conservative members of the House who agree that the Senate bill is unacceptable in their promise to protect all life. Almost all of the 43 Democrats in the 124-member House also oppose the proposal, but for entirely different reasons.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina Supreme Court has stayed enforcement of the state’s six-week ban until it decides whether it violates the state constitution’s guarantee of the right to privacy, leaving the 20-week ban passed in 2016 as the current law .

The debate has Republicans at each other’s throats. McCravey called Sen. Tom Davis, who has taken the lead in a potential filibuster, the “Beaufort Bully,” saying his vision for South Carolina was “forcing teachers to tell 13-year-olds they can get free contraception without their parents knowing. and killing at least 2,000 babies a year in the womb.”

Davis said he is grossly and unfairly misrepresenting his positions and believes that if Republicans are going to push for abortion restrictions, they should also improve access to birth control, prenatal care and educational opportunities for children.

Davis was joined in the Senate by all three Republican women in the chamber. They said banning nearly all abortions went too far and were particularly upset that the House bill initially had no exceptions for rape or incest.

“You’re pregnant with a dead baby? Too bad. She was raped at 11 by your grandfather and she got pregnant? That’s pretty bad,” Sen. Penry Gustafson said earlier this month.

In response, the South Carolina Freedom Caucus, which includes about a dozen of the House’s most conservative members, released a letter last week from two of its women members saying they “mean it when we say we’re pro-life.”

The letter said that so few abortions occur after rape and incest that they didn’t matter.

“To allow the killing of a living being based on situations that essentially never happen is unacceptable to us,” he said. the letter by Reps. Ashley Trantham and Melissa Oremus who pledged that all 13 members of the group would vote against the bill.

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