Anti-abortion lobby scraps South Carolina’s 6-week abortion ban

South Carolina Republicans voted to lift an abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy after the anti-abortion lobby urged party leaders not to support legislation that includes exceptions for rape or incest.

After the House of Representatives passed an abortion ban earlier this year with last-minute exceptions for rape or incest, it eventually voted not to agree with its peers in the South Carolina Senate, even though the Senate bill accurately reflected the language the legislation the House has previously been in passed an unrecorded vote.

Shortly after Tuesday’s vote, House Speaker Murrell Smith tweeted a letter by several anti-abortion groups in the state, who opposed the law on the grounds that the inclusion of exceptions for rape and incest, and a Senate-backed provision covering fetal abnormalities, served only to overturn an existing six-week ban of abortion, which also includes exceptions for rape and incest.

The hardline House Freedom Caucus echoed that rhetoric, saying in a statement that they “campaign against life, and we voted that way,” before asking the Senate to appoint a conference committee to settle differences between the two houses and to reach an agreement on that they both could agree.

SC Statehouse
Above: Exterior of the South Carolina State House. The state’s Republicans have voted to end a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy due to legislation that includes exceptions for rape or incest.
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But the Senate made it clear that would not happen. Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey told reporters his chamber likely lacked the votes to support legislation with no exceptions for rape or incest. Shortly thereafter, Republican Senate President Thomas Alexander issued a statement clarifying that any abortion ban, without exception, was likely dead upon arrival in the House of Lords.

“I am very disappointed with today’s vote in the House of Representatives,” he said in a statement. “As members of the House of Representatives know, the previous Senate votes show that the House version simply does not have enough support to pass.”

Tuesday’s vote, Alexander said, also potentially jeopardizes any effort to limit abortion in the state this year as the South Carolina Supreme Court weighs the legality of a similar six-week ban passed in the 2021 session. Currently, abortions are legal in South Carolina up to 20 weeks gestation as deliberations on this law continue.

But it also underscores the reluctance of Conservatives to unreservedly support an abortion ban heading into a mid-election season dominated by the abortion issue. Most national polls show that Republicans and independents alike support these exceptions, leaving conservative lawmakers in a challenging position to appease their strongest anti-abortion opponents and alienate large sections of the electorate.

“I support a stronger pro-life law,” Alexander added. “But when we found it was not possible to pass, our primary concern became to protect as many unborn lives as possible by strengthening the Fetal Heartbeat Act, which is currently legally compromised. Today’s action by the House of Representatives seriously jeopardizes those efforts.” Anti-abortion lobby scraps South Carolina’s 6-week abortion ban

Rick Schindler

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