South Carolina Home passes abortion ban apart from rape and incest

Comment on this story

comment

Members of the South Carolina House on Tuesday passed a near-total abortion ban after a more restrictive version of the legislation failed.

The measure bans all abortions except for pregnancies up to 12 weeks old that are the result of rape or incest. The original version’s exception for the woman’s life also remains. HB 5399 goes to the South Carolina Senate for consideration next week.

Earlier Tuesday, Republicans tried to pass an abortion ban that made no exceptions for rape or incest. The measure failed by eight votes, underscoring a growing political divide among Republicans over how far to push the types of legal abortion restrictions that remain unpopular with voters.

That tension was evident Tuesday as Republican leaders at times struggled to keep their lawmakers in line. Earlier in the day, members of the House of Representatives – led by the most conservative members of the GOP – rejected an exception on rape and incest.

A frustrated Republican Congressman, Nathan Ballentine, took to the podium Tuesday to persuade colleagues to support an abortion ban, even if it included exceptions. He noted that their opposition to moderation measures plays into the hands of Democrats, who also strategically opposed exceptions to the ban.

“We’ve got chess going right now, some people are playing checkers, some aren’t even now that there’s a game going on,” Ballentine said. “If we do all or nothing on this bill, we’ll end up with nothing.”

Ballentine warned that if the House of Representatives submits a no-holds-barred bill to the Senate, “it won’t come back.”

As the House of Representatives prepared to vote on the near-total abortion ban, which included only a mother’s life exception, Republicans called an unexpected hour-long recess. Democrats condemned the move as an unprecedented delay meant to twist the arm of the holdouts.

“And all I can say is that I’m very glad to be part of a caucus that doesn’t twist your arm to do something that goes against your core,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter , a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House.

When Republicans returned to the vote, they failed to pass the most extreme version of the bill. So the legislature used parliamentary procedures to repeat the vote after adding the exception on rape and incest.

1 in 3 American women have already lost access to abortion. More restrictive laws are coming.

At the start of Tuesday’s debate, the Republican-sponsored bill was already vulnerable. Democrats rejected the law as too extreme, while a group of 20 conservative Republicans suggested they want a tougher version of the law.

Rep. Josiah Magnuson, a Republican, proposed an amendment that would punish South Carolinians who get an abortion with up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine; the change failed, 91-9. Republican Rep. Jonathon Hill proposed a similarly unpopular amendment that would have defined abortion as murder and subjected all abortions to the applicable murder penalties.

Several amendments attempting to soften the impact of the bill also failed, including a proposed amendment that would have allowed minors pregnant by rape or incest to have an abortion at up to 20 weeks.

“I just don’t know how you look your neighbors, your daughters, in the face and tell them, ‘If you’re 9 years old, you’re 11 and you were raped. You have no way of addressing it,'” Republican Rep. Micah Caskey said while urging members of the House of Representatives to pass the amendment.

When Republican Gil Gatch advocated a similar exception for minors, his colleague Doug Gilliam, also a Republican, attacked Gatch’s characterization that a child victim of incest is “forced” to carry a pregnancy to term.

“She had choices,” Gilliam said, arguing, for example, that a child victim could take Plan B rather than continue and later terminate a pregnancy.

“If her father rapes her… who is making her get the morning-after pill?” asked Gatch.

“The ambulance,” Gilliam replied.

The tensions highlighted by Tuesday’s vote were anticipated two weeks earlier when Republican Rep. Neal Collins expressed regret at supporting the state’s six-week 2021 abortion ban, which went into effect earlier this year before a state court ruled that Law temporarily blocked.

South Carolina State Assemblyman Neal Collins (R) expressed regret for supporting an abortion ban during a committee hearing in Columbia, SC on Aug. 16 (Video: South Carolina State House)

At one point, Republican leaders criticized their Democratic counterparts for voting with conservative Republicans to block amendments that would have created exceptions, an apparent strategy to push a highly divisive and restrictive version of the bill.

Democratic MP Leon Stavrinakis dismissed the attack and went to the microphone to tell Republican members, “This is not our bill.”

“We did not pass this law outside of the committee,” Stavrinakis said. “We are not the ones trying to take away the rights and freedoms, equality and choices in health care from South Carolina women.”

He added, “If you don’t like it, put your own house in order.”

Rep. @leonstav ahead of abortion bill vote: “This is not our bill. We did not pass this bill outside of committee, the women of South Carolina. We are not. Don’t blame us.” pic.twitter.com/iA0lkOHlOf

— Gavin Jackson (@GavinJackson) August 30, 2022

House Democrats also argued that lawmakers should put the issue of an abortion ban to voters via ballot initiative. Kansas voters earlier this month rejected an amendment that would have removed abortion rights from the state constitution.

Cobb-Hunter, a longtime Democrat, urged her Republican counterparts to let voters choose what level of abortion access or restriction they want.

“What are you all afraid of?” she said during Tuesday’s press conference. “If you do speak for the people of South Carolina, why not let them vote?”

Comments are closed.