COLUMBIA (LifeSiteNews) – The South Carolina Senate failed this week to pass a general abortion ban following disputes over whether to exempt babies conceived in rape and incest, opting instead to pass a revision of the state’s existing heartbeat law.
Late last month, the South Carolina House voted 67-38 to pass H. 5399, the Human Life Protection Act. As originally drafted, the bill would have prohibited abortions except to prevent “the death of the pregnant woman,” a “substantial risk of death for the pregnant woman because of a physical condition,” or “the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman, not including psychological or emotional conditions.”
But after the initial version fell short by eight votes, it was amended to allow abortions up to 12 weeks if a woman tells a doctor she was raped, after which the doctor has 24 hours to report her claim to law enforcement. The change sat poorly with several pro-life lawmakers, but secured enough additional votes to pass the chamber.
The Epoch Times reports that the dispute renewed once the bill moved to the Senate, where on Tuesday the Medical Affairs Committee voted 9–8 to remove the rape and incest exceptions. Five Republicans – state Sens. Tom Davis, Penry Gustafson, Greg Hembree, Sandy Senn, and Katrina Shealy – joined every Democrat in voting against it.
“We were never going to pass a total abortion ban,” lamented Senate Republican leader Shane Massey. “We never had the votes to pass even what the House passed.”
Instead, the Senate voted 27-16 Thursday for HB 5399, essentially a revised version of the state’s existing Fetal Heartbeat Protection From Abortion Act. The law currently on the books prohibits abortions as early as six weeks with exceptions.
HB 5399 reduces the window in which rape victims may seek an abortion from 20 weeks to 12, amends the exception for fetal anomalies to require a diagnosis from two doctors instead of one, and requires DNA from aborted babies conceived in rape to be given to law enforcement for potential rape investigation. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
“It is the governor’s hope that the House and Senate will soon come to an agreement and send a bill to his desk for signature,” said Brian Symmes, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Henry McMaster. The governor has previously said he would “immediately” sign “any” pro-life legislation to reach his desk.