South Carolina Senators Reject Nearly Complete Abortion Ban: NPR

South Carolina Republican Senator Tom Davis reviews the papers on his desk before debating a bill banning abortion on Sept. 7.

Jeffrey Collins/AP

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Jeffrey Collins/AP

South Carolina Republican Senator Tom Davis reviews the papers on his desk before debating a bill banning abortion on Sept. 7.

Jeffrey Collins/AP

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — South Carolina senators on Thursday rejected a ban on nearly all abortions in a special session held in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade after five Republicans, including all chambermaids , refused to support it.

The 30 Republicans in the 46-member chamber had a majority to approve the ban, but did not have the additional votes to end an impending filibuster by Republican Senator Tom Davis.

Davis, the chief of staff to former Governor Mark Sanford before he was elected to the Senate in 2009, was joined by the three Republican women in the Senate, a fifth GOP colleague and all Democratic senators to oppose the proposed ban.

Davis said he promised his daughters he would not vote to tighten South Carolina’s current six-week abortion ban, because women have rights, too.

“The moment we get pregnant, we lost all control over what happens to our bodies,” Davis said, recalling what his daughters told him. “I’m here to tell you I won’t let it happen.

After a pause to discuss their options, Senate Leader Shane Massey admitted that the abortion ban was unlikely to be passed.

“We would never have a total ban on abortion,” Massey said. “We’ve never had the votes to vote, not even what the House passed.”

Senators have made a few changes to the six-week ban, including cutting the time that rape and incest victims who become pregnant can request an abortion from 20 weeks to about 12 weeks and requiring DNA from the aborted fetus to be collected before the police. The bill goes back to the House of Representatives, which passed a ban with exceptions for rape or incest.

South Carolina’s six-week ban is currently on hold as the state’s Supreme Court assesses whether it violates privacy rights. In the meantime, the state’s 2016 abortion ban is in effect 20 weeks after conception.

The South Carolina General Assembly met in special session to try to join more than a dozen other states with abortion bans.

Most of them came through so-called trigger laws intended to ban most abortions when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy in June. The Indiana legislature passed a new ban last month that has not gone into effect.

The debate kicked off Wednesday with the three Republican women in the South Carolina Senate speaking back to back saying they could not support the bill unless the rape or incest exceptions were reinstated.

Senate Katrina Shealy said the 41 men in the Senate would be better off listening to their wives, daughters, mothers, granddaughters and watching the girls’ faces in Sunday school classes in their churches.

“If you want to believe that God wants you to pass a law with no exceptions that kill mothers and ruin the lives of children – let mothers bring babies home to bury – then I think you are communicating wrongly with God. Or maybe you have you don’t communicate with Him at all,” Shealy said before senators added a proposal that would allow abortions if a fetus cannot survive outside the womb.

Massey helped bring about the compromise between the Republicans who briefly put the exceptions back on the bill. He pointed out that by 2021, state health officials will have registered about 3,000 abortions within the first six weeks of a pregnancy.

“Heart rate is great, but I think this is better,” said Massey. “I don’t think abortion should be used as birth control.”

Senate Leader Brad Hutto said Republican women stood up for all women in South Carolina while Republican men let them down. He said the Democrats did not want changes to the current laws.

“There may be a feeling that this is the same as what we already had. It’s not. It’s worse in many ways,” said Hutto.

Republican government leader Henry McMaster, who has previously said he would be happy if abortions didn’t happen in the state, thought the Senate version struck the right balance, governor spokesman Brian Symmes said.

“It is the governor’s hope that the House and Senate will soon reach an agreement and send a bill to his desk for signature,” Symmes said.

Republican Senator Sandy Senn, who did not vote for the six-week ban in 2021, said a total ban would be an invasion of the privacy of every woman in the state.

“If what’s going on in my vagina isn’t an unreasonable invasion of privacy for this legislature to meddle in, then I don’t know what is,” Senn said.

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