SC fetal heartbeat bill to head for vote with exceptions back in place

SC fetal heartbeat bill to head for vote with exceptions back in place
The South Carolina Senate could begin debating a new fetal heartbeat bill as soon as they return to Columbia in the new year. (Source: Live 5/File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - A bill that would ban most abortions in South Carolina will make its way to the state Senate floor in January with a notable change.

The state’s “Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act” would ban almost all abortions starting at six weeks into a pregnancy, about the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The Senate Medical Affairs Committee voted to strike down a change made by a subcommittee. That change, made a few weeks ago, removed exceptions for rape and incest that the House added.

The other exception is when the mother’s life is in danger.

During Tuesday’s full committee meeting, lawmakers voted to reverse the removal of those exceptions.

Some Republicans on the panel said this was the only way the bill could pass in the Senate.

“I believe it's bound to the health of the mother. I realize others may differ,” Beaufort Sen. Tom Davis, a Republican, said. “But I want a bill that passes. I want a bill that will be signed by Governor McMaster. I want a bill that we can proudly defend in the federal district court and I view this as the best way to accomplish that objective.”

The bill passed by a 9-to-6 vote with lawmakers voting along party lines.

Davis proposed an amendment that would require a woman to file a police report if she became pregnant as a result of rape or incest before having an abortion. That amendment was added to the legislation.

Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews, a Democrat who represents Colleton County, was the only female lawmaker at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Don't get your hopes up if you're a 'No' vote. Don't get your hopes up if you're a 'Yes' vote,” she said. “It's still going to be a fight on the floor. I'm the only woman that's here, with a lot of people that aren't women telling me what to do with my body. It's going to be a fight.”

The Senate debated a similar ban in 2018, but Republicans couldn't get a two-thirds vote needed to get over a procedural hurdle. Democrats have added a seat since then.

Bans in other states are all tied up in courts.

Lawmakers could debate the bill as soon as they return to Columba in 2020.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.