GOP 'Sister Senators' of SC Vote Against Abortion Ban

But South Carolina Senate passes 6-week abortion ban all the same
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2023 1:30 AM CDT
GOP 'Sister Senators' of SC Vote Against Abortion Ban
Protesters against a stricter ban on abortion in South Carolina stand in the Statehouse lobby on Tuesday, May, 23, 2023, in Columbia, South Carolina.   (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

Abortion is currently legal in South Carolina until 22 weeks of pregnancy, but that window is set to sharply narrow. The state's Republican-led Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban abortions at the earliest sign of cardiac activity, which typically happens around six weeks; most people are unaware they are pregnant at that point. The New York Times reports the bill also requires that women have two in-person doctors’ visits and two ultrasounds prior to getting an abortion. The bill is now headed to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who tweeted Tuesday night, "I look forward to signing this bill into law as soon as possible." What you need to know:

  • The specifics: The bill does allow abortions up to 12 weeks in some cases: for fatal fetal anomalies, if the patient's life and health are in jeopardy, and in instances of rape or incest. Under the bill, any doctor who violates that could be hit with felony charges that carry up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

  • The argument on Tuesday: GOP leaders pointed to provisional state Health Department data that indicated more women are coming in from out of state to receive an abortion, reports the Hill; those opposed to the bill disagreed, saying most who require abortions are South Carolina residents. But the AP notes South Carolina "is among the last bastions in the region for those seeking legal abortions."
  • The argument down the pike: The state's Supreme Court overturned a similar six-week abortion ban from 2021 in January, saying it clashed with the state constitution's right to privacy. Once signed into law, this ban is expected to similarly end up before the South Carolina Supreme Court.
  • This time around: The January decision was 3-2, but the court's sole female has since retired due to a mandatory age cap. Her replacement has the backing of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus.

  • The "sister senators": The AP notes the 46-member Senate has five women: three Republicans, one Democrat, and one independent. They donned buttons reading "elect more women" on Tuesday and were greeted with cheers. All voted against the bill, with the three Republicans pushing instead for a 12-week ban, saying women needed more time to make a decision.
  • A standout quote: "We in the South Carolina Legislature are not God. We do not know what’s going on in somebody else’s life. We do not have the right to make decisions for someone else," GOP Sen. Katrina Shealy said.
  • A retort: The Guardian reports that in response to Shealy’s speech, Sen. Richard Cash said their suggested approach would amount to "abortion on demand" for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and said "babies begin with the union of the sperm and ovum—that’s how God designed it."
(More abortion stories.)

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