The South Carolina House on Tuesday approved a bill that outlaws abortion except in the cases of pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
The chamber initially rejected the bill without the exceptions by eight votes. But once Republicans saw the outcome, they quickly went through several complex procedures and voted to bring the bill back from the brink of failure.
The exceptions were added by enough lawmakers shouting “aye,” and the bill passed by a vote of 67-38.
The bill has one more routine vote before it goes to the Senate, where stricter bans on abortions have seen tougher fights.
The dizzying parliamentary maneuvers happened after Democrats joined with the chamber’s most conservative members to try to keep the bill as restrictive as possible.
Many Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics as they joined conservatives also to vote down amendment supporters said would allow abortions for women carrying fetuses with medical problems, leaving them unlikely to be born alive.
“The ladies of South Carolina are gambling with your body,” Republican Rep Micha Caskey said.
Democrats said they didn’t want to debate abortion again after the General Assembly agreed to a six-week ban in 2021. Still, Republicans decided to call a special session after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“It is not our bill. We’re not the ones trying to control their bodies,” Democratic Rep. Leon Stavrinakis said.
Republicans, who have nearly twice as many members as Democrats, took an hour break just before the vote to get their most conservative members to agree to the exceptions.
The bill allows abortions up to 12 weeks after conception if a women tells a doctor she was raped. The doctor has to tell the woman he will report the rape to the county sheriff and has 24 hours after the procedure to give deputies the woman’s name and contact information.
Other changes voted down in the debate included language supporters said would protect in vitro fertilization and birth control and proposals that would allow prosecutors to charge a women who gets an abortion with murder.
About 100 people gathered in the Statehouse lobby for the debate. They chanted phrases like “Abortion is health care” and “My body, my choice” and drew honks from passing cars. Law enforcement closed the House gallery Tuesday.
South Carolina currently has a six-week ban, but the South Carolina Supreme Court suspended the law earlier this month while the justices decide on a Planned Parenthood lawsuit that says the ban is an unreasonable invasion of privacy under the state constitution. The decision leaves South Carolina’s abortion ban at 20 weeks for now.
Supporters of the total ban in South Carolina want to follow the lead of Indiana, which earlier in August passed a total ban to go into effect on Sept. 15 with exceptions for rape, incest, and if the mother’s life is in danger. West Virginia’s House and Senate couldn’t agree on stricter abortion rules in a July session.
Thirteen states have so-called trigger laws designed to outlaw most abortions when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the constitutional right to end a pregnancy in June.
South Carolina leaders have watched those developments carefully, as well as events several weeks ago in Kansas, where nearly 60% of voters rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the state’s conservative Legislature to ban abortion. Republican Donald Trump received 56% of the 2020 presidential vote in Kansas. Trump won 55% in South Carolina.
Republican leaders in the South Carolina House allowed the speaker to call the special session after the leak of a draft opinion indicating the U.S. Supreme Court would allow states to ban abortion. Lawmakers started working on the total ban after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.
The bill currently allows abortions if a mother’s life is in danger and lists several medical emergencies that would fit into that exception.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster hasn’t given his opinion on this specific bill but has said he would like to see a day where there are no abortions in the state.