State lawmakers on Tuesday passed to the House floor a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in South Carolina, after hearing hours of competing pleas from pastors, women’s rights advocates, pregnancy counselors, parents and doctors.
After about five hours of debate, the GOP-dominated House Judiciary Committee voted 15-7 along party lines Tuesday night to advance a fetal heartbeat abortion ban to the full House, where Democrats promised another fight.
The legislation would outlaw abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically around the sixth week of pregnancy. Six weeks is before some women know they are pregnant and long before the fetus can survive outside the womb.
After another contentious debate, the bill was revised to include exceptions for women whose pregnancies resulted from rape or incest.
“It goes too far inserting government into our personal and private lives, and impeding decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor,” Columbia resident Maxine Todd testified before lawmakers.
“I have seen, I have heard that beating heart at six weeks,” Alexia Newman, who supports the bill, with the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg countered in testimony to lawmakers Tuesday. “Because that heart is beating, those babies deserve protection under the law.”
The hearings Tuesday represented the first real abortion debate of the year in the S.C. State House. It comes days after neighboring Georgia passed its own “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban.
Such bans, passed in other states, so far have been blocked by judges or ruled unconstitutional, but House Republicans see an opportunity to spark a court challenge that overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion.
The proposal, though, faces a host of delay
tactics and a possible filibuster by House and Senate Democrats. Just
last year, Senate Democrats filibustered for days to defeat an outright abortion ban proposal.
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