Rape, Incest Exceptions Removed From Near-Total Abortion Ban Bill By SC Senate Panel

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The South Carolina Senate will start debate Wednesday over a near-total abortion ban proposal that now won’t include exceptions should the pregnancy result from a crime.

Abortion exceptions for rape and incest up until around 12 weeks of pregnancy were removed by a 7-3 vote of the Republican-majority and nearly all-male Senate Medical Affairs Committee Tuesday. Seven of the committee’s members, nearly all Democrats, abstained from voting, which may be a strategic maneuver to help lessen the ban’s chances of passing.

All three women on the committee — Democratic Sens. Margie Bright Matthews of Colleton and Mia McLeod of Richland and Republican Sen. Sandy Senn of Charleston — were not present for the vote but were allowed to vote by proxy. Bright Matthews joined the hearing shortly after the vote.

The entire bill, H. 5399, passed out of committee by a 9-8 vote later Tuesday. Republican Sens. Tom Davis of Beaufort and Sandy Senn of Charleston joined Democrats to oppose the ban.

“This is an awful bill. I just can’t say that enough,” Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said before the vote. “We’ve we’ve witnessed here is the Republican majority’s attempt to impose an extreme total ban on abortion on women in South Carolina. … This is wrong for South Carolina.”

Earlier Tuesday, Hutto told reporters during a committee break that Democrats will not help Republicans by making “an awful bill a very bad bill.”

“We think by highlighting the fact a bunch of extreme, Republican men are trying to control women’s decisions in South Carolina — they need to own that. The governor needs to own that,” Hutto said, the Associated Press reported.

State Sen. Richard Cash, an Anderson Republican and arguably one of the Legislature’s most vocal opponents of abortion, even with exceptions, said keeping exceptions in the legislation would result in a “generational crime.”

“As wrong as human trafficking is, sex trafficking is, the killing of an unborn child is an ending of a life altogether. There’s no rescue for the unborn child when the abortion machine is turned on,” said Cash, who proposed the amendment striking rape and incest exceptions. “Does the legislative body have the authority by a majority vote to set the conditions whereby an innocent unborn baby can be killed? Do we have that authority by a majority to vote to say, ‘This baby is protected. This baby is not?’”

Rape and incest exceptions were added to the House bill last week after an hours-long debate that split House Republicans into factions, and Democrats joined the chamber’s most conservative members aiming to kill the bill.

Democrats failed, and the bill was approved by the House.

The legislation would ban nearly all abortions in the state but makes exceptions for the life and health of the mother. With the Senate panel now recommending to remove exceptions for rape and incest with a reporting requirement, the legislation also does not currently include specific exceptions for fetal anomaly.

It also includes language seeking to require biological fathers, especially in cases where the pregnancy results from a crime, to cover a share of pregnancy and associated costs. And it now includes a provision to explicitly ensure the legislation does not prohibit the sale, prescription, and use of an IUD and Plan B.

Efforts by Davis to expand sex education in schools and add fetal anomaly exceptions, for example, failed.

Legislators in the House added exceptions because many in the chamber were unwilling to support a ban without them. Senate leadership had also said that any ban without exceptions could not get enough support to pass.

The same Senate committee has in the past removed rape and incest exceptions from previous abortion legislation, and the same Senate has quietly voted to add exceptions back in on the floor.

There are 30 Republicans to 16 Democrats in the Senate.

Davis said Tuesday that removing exceptions “strikes me as wrong,” voting to against their removal with two other Republicans.

“I have three daughters. If my 12-year-old daughter was raped, my right to counsel her is taken away. This takes away a physician’s right to counsel her. This takes away a priest’s right to counsel her. It takes all choice away,” Davis, R-Beaufort, said. “I can’t support an amendment … that requires my daughter at 12 years old to carry a baby to term and deliver it. What in the world kind of impact is that going to have on her?”

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