In a 9-8 vote on Tuesday, the South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs Committee sent the proposed near-total abortion ban to the Senate floor for consideration after removing earlier in the day an exception for rape and incest. The Senate is scheduled to meet Wednesday.
The committee advanced House Bill 5399, which will surely set up a fight over the legislation in the full chamber, with two Republicans joining Democrats in voting against it, saying they can’t support a bill that does not include an exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.
In its current form, HB 5399 bans abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with only limited exceptions to prevent the death of the pregnant woman. It involves the substantial risk of death for the pregnant woman posed by medical conditions such as molar pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, and severe preeclampsia, and miscarriage.
On Tuesday morning, the committee voted 7-3 to eliminate an exception for cases of rape or incest up to 12 weeks after conception – with required reporting to law enforcement – added by the state House last week.
GOP Sen. Tom Davis offered nearly a dozen amendments during the committee meeting that were not adopted, including an amendment that would’ve added an exception for fatal fetal anomalies.
In an apparent strategic move to reduce the bill’s chances of passing in the full Senate – whose makeup is 30 Republicans and 16 Democrats – Democrats on the committee abstained from the vote that ended u involving only Republicans.
The bill’s passage in the Senate on Wednesday in its current form is not guaranteed with legislative observers saying it is unlikely to pass without the exemptions because if the Senate’s version of the bill is different from what the more conservative House passed last week, it must return to the lower chamber for final approval.
Multiple Republican South Carolina senators have also said they won’t support a bill without these exceptions.