Update May 4, 2018: The South Carolina Senate voted early this morning to effectively kill the bill. Read the full report here.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina, May 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The South Carolina Senate voted Wednesday night to ban almost all abortions, after a Democratic lawmaker attempted to make a political statement by replacing a completely different bill.
Lawmakers had been debating legislation to ban the so-called “dilation and evacuation” (D&E) abortion procedure, known as dismemberment abortion because it functions by tearing a preborn baby apart limb by limb.
State Sen. Brad Hutto, a Democrat who supports abortion, introduced an amendment replacing the bill’s text with language prohibiting abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, or medical emergencies, The State reports. It is estimated to cover 97% of abortions in South Carolina.
“If you want to vote on it, this is your vote,” Hutto challenged his pro-life colleagues, suggesting he meant to put them in a tough political situation. “If you want to dance on this one, you can see it on the commercials when you get home for your next election.”
He also claimed that banning abortion was “clearly unconstitutional,” and that he hoped voting on an outright abortion ban would “get it to the courts so we don’t have to keep debating it over and over and over.”
However, the Senate adopted the amendment 24-1, with most Democrats abstaining and only Democratic Sen. Marlon Kimpson voting against it. An hour later, the Senate voted 28-10 for the new bill.
It still has to clear one more Senate vote before moving on to the GOP-controlled state House, and observers expect Democrats, who have bitterly denounced both versions, to attempt to filibuster it until the end of the current legislative session.
In addition, state Republicans are divided on whether to embrace the bill. GOP House Majority Leader Gary Simrill wants to revert it to a dismemberment abortion ban, calling the replacement a “diversion from the real issue of protecting unborn children from a barbaric procedure that allows for dismemberment in the womb.”
He claimed that the legislature had to “work within existing legal parameters” until Roe v. Wade is overturned, and threatened that House members would “nonconcur and work out the challenges in a conference committee” if the Senate sends them the broader abortion ban.
But Senate Republicans maintain that the bill’s challenge to Roe is what makes it important. Republican Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey welcomed the new bill as “an opportunity to revisit Roe v. Wade,” and Republican Sen. Wes Climer called it a “historic opportunity to test the new composition of the Supreme Court in hopes of saving tens of thousands of innocent children in South Carolina.”
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster sides with the Senate. “Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in,” he said Thursday, confirming he would sign the abortion ban. “I think there’s nothing wrong with that bill.” He has previously pledged to “do everything we can to protect the lives of South Carolinians…born and unborn, young and old.”
A narrow majority of South Carolinians supports the bill’s purpose of banning most abortions, according to a 2014 Pew survey.