SC senators denounce a bill on the near total ban on abortion

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Four of South Carolina’s five senators on Wednesday lambasted legislation that would ban nearly all abortions in the state and only provide an exception if the pregnancy would jeopardize the life and health of the mother.

One, a Republican from Charleston, called for the issue to be put on the ballot for a public vote – but, she told her colleagues, “you’re all scared.”

“I think it will be interesting in the November election to see what happens because this problem is huge,” said Senator Sandy Senn. “Today, 51% of the population are women. You don’t think we’re going to vote on this? You don’t think women will vote for a single question on something like this? Because they will.

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Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston, discusses the abortion bill in the South Carolina Senate chamber Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2022. Tracy Glantz [email protected]

The Senate — made up of 30 Republicans and 16 Democrats — began its debate Wednesday on H. 5399 after the bill was advanced the previous day by the Republican-majority Senate Medical Affairs Committee. As it reads, the bill seeks to ban nearly all abortions in the state without exception if the pregnancy is the result of a crime, including rape or incest, or if the fetus is a carrier. of an anomaly.

The only exception made by the proposal is if the pregnancy complicates the life and health of the mother.

Lack of exceptions ‘frankly shocked’ Senator Penry Gustafson, R-Kershaw, she said Wednesday.

Her comments and those of other senators followed those of anti-abortion Sen. Richard Cash, R-Anderson, who opened the session before the debate by quoting scripture. State Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, who has opposed legislation restricting access to abortion, had excused her leave on Wednesday.

“It doesn’t look like this bill is about the mother at all,” said Gustafson, who said she couldn’t vote for the bill without an exception for fatal fetal abnormalities. “I don’t understand how S. 1 (the six-week abortion ban)…it got so broad support, why two years ago it was acceptable to consider fatal fetal abnormality of a baby, but today it’s totally no, can’t do that.

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Senator Penry Gustafson, R-Kershaw, speaks on abortion rights in the South Carolina Senate chamber on Wednesday, September 8, 2022. Tracy Glantz [email protected]

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, who opposes the bill as written, again proposed an amendment on Wednesday to add exceptions for rape and incest until about 20 weeks of pregnancy — higher than the 12-week limit added by the House — but eliminates any requirement that the crime leading to an abortion must be reported to law enforcement.

When asked if he would consider adding the reporting requirement back, Davis replied, “No.” Davis later said he would be open to adding the requirement if it would help get the bill passed.

Ultimately, Davis’ amendment was tabled by a vote of 23 to 6. All three Republican senators voted against the filing.

Not all Democrats voted.

“This relentless effort to control a woman’s pregnancy, I’m sorry gentlemen, but I will no longer participate in this insulting and demeaning debate,” said Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton. “This is not your place.”

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Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, discusses the abortion bill in the South Carolina Senate chamber Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2022. Tracy Glantz [email protected]

South Carolina’s current abortion ban law limits the procedure to 20 weeks of pregnancy after the state’s Supreme Court temporarily blocked the six-week ‘fetal heartbeat’ law which came into effect shortly after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June.

After the High Court injunction, many lawmakers, including some Republicans, urged their colleagues to let the six-week ban run its course instead of passing new legislation to ban the procedure altogether.

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Republican from Lexington who has championed legislation to support women and children and is currently the longest-serving woman in the chamber, slammed the nearly all-male chamber of lawmakers on Wednesday for taking decisions for women, not doctors.

“To say it’s hard to be a woman in politics is an understatement,” Shealy said. “To say that it’s really hard to be a woman in politics in South Carolina is not an affirmation at all. You can tell by looking around this room. You can tell by looking at the portraits on the wall of this room and in the bedroom of the Chamber and in the halls of the State House. You can tell how difficult it is by some of the comments made by some people in the lobby. Things like, ‘Women are not fit to serve’, ‘God doesn’t want us here.’

“Well, God is smart enough. If God didn’t want us here, I’m sure we wouldn’t be here.

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Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, discusses the abortion bill in the South Carolina Senate chamber Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2022. Tracy Glantz [email protected]

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

This story was originally published September 7, 2022 1:07 p.m.

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) is the political and government editor at The State. She has covered SC State House and politics for The State since 2017. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013. She previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She has won reporting awards in South Carolina.
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