- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 6, 2022

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of South Carolina senators voted Tuesday to remove exceptions for rape and incest from a proposed abortion ban with Democrats choosing not to vote in what appeared to be a strategy to try to prevent the bill from passing through the Legislature.

The 7-3 vote in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee involved all Republican men. The committee then took a break before considering more changes as it decides whether to send the bill to the Senate floor.

The same bill without the exceptions appeared to fail in the more conservative state House last week before some Republicans maneuvered through a series of votes to allow abortions for rape and incest victims up to the 12th week of pregnancy.



Democrats are not going to help Republicans out of a box of their own making by making “an awful bill a very bad bill,” Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto said.

“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 told reporters during the break.

Republicans told their Democratic colleagues their strategy was shortsighted.

“It looks like when they had the chance to help women, they didn’t,” Republican Sen. Michael Gambrel said.

Several Republicans senators have said they cannot support the bill without the exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest. There are 30 Republicans and 16 Democrats in the state Senate.

Two of the Republicans are on the 17-member Senate Medical Affairs Committee - Sens. Tom Davis and Sandy Senn. Six Democrats are also on the committee.

Davis told the committee he thinks the rights of a mother who is pregnant to control her own body have to be balanced with the rights of fetuses to their lives, so he considers both a ban on all abortions or allowing abortions any time during pregnancies too extreme.

Davis also said if the state is going to require more women to have babies, then they owe it to them to give them better prenatal care, their children better educational opportunities and birth control options so they don’t get pregnant.

The bill bans all abortions in South Carolina except when the mother’s life is at risk. Before they were removed, the bill also included exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest. In those cases, the doctor would have to tell the woman the rape will be reported and her name given to the county sheriff within 24 hours of the procedure. The bill would have only allowed abortions in those cases up to 12 weeks after conception.

The proposal also starts child support payments at the date of conception and requires a father to pay half of pregnancy expenses, including her share of insurance premiums. The father of a child conceived by rape or incest must also pay the full cost of mental counseling from the attack.

South Carolina currently has a ban on abortions once cardiac activity in a fetus is detected, which is usually about six weeks. But that law has been suspended as the South Carolina Supreme Court reviews if it violates the state’s constitutional right to privacy. That leaves South Carolina’s older 20-week abortion ban as the current benchmark.

Abortion bans have had mixed success in state legislatures since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Indiana passed a ban in August that goes into effect later this month with the rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions. West Virginia’s Legislature could not agree on stricter rules during a special session in July.

And lawmakers in South Carolina suddenly started paying much closer attention to Kansas when nearly 60% of voters rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the state’s Legislature to ban abortion. The states voted for Republican Donald Trump in nearly identical percentages in the 2020 presidential election.

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