SC House rejects Senate’s abortion bill

The future of a push to further restrict abortions in South Carolina before next year is now likely dead after a vote in the state House.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 12:23 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The future of a push to further restrict abortions in South Carolina before next year is now likely dead.

The state’s House of Representatives resoundingly rejected a bill Tuesday its Republican majority says was too watered-down.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, activity at the South Carolina State House has been dominated by abortion. Hours of public testimony and hearings and more hours of debate in special sessions may end up resulting in the state’s law staying exactly as it is right now because of Tuesday’s 95-11 vote.

With that vote, the South Carolina House of Representatives rejected an abortion-restricting bill the Senate passed earlier this month, refusing to send it to the governor.

The House had previously approved more stringent legislation that would ban abortion from conception with some exceptions.

The chamber’s conservative majority said Tuesday that the bill the Senate approved after that, which builds on South Carolina’s current six-week ban, is too weak.

“We didn’t come back to do the same thing we had already done, so this bill — we want to advance the cause of life and not just do what it already on the books,” Rep. John McCravy (R-Greenwood) said.

Senate President Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee) said in a statement that the House vote will make passing this abortion bill “almost impossible because Senate leaders have said the votes aren’t there to pass a more restrictive bill than the one the House just rejected.

But House Republicans say they don’t think the door is closed to work out a compromise to send to the governor.

“There’s been no backing up on our part,” House Majority Leader Rep. David Hiott (R-Pickens) said. “We believe this is the right way to go, and we feel very comfortable with our decision.”

If this bill doesn’t pass, in some form, the legislature wouldn’t get another crack at changing South Carolina’s abortion law until next year when its next regular legislative session starts.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) called the vote a small victory but says their work to protect abortion access isn’t over.

“This isn’t a ‘run down the field and catch the football and spike it in the endzone,’' he said. “This is, again, the rights of a woman to protect her body, and from a libertarian perspective, the rights of a woman to keep the government out of her body, off of her body.”

The House and Senate will have an opportunity to work out a compromise.

If they can’t, South Carolina’s current six-week ban will remain the law. However, the state Supreme Court blocked that law from being enforced for now with a hearing on a lawsuit challenging it scheduled for next month.

In the meantime, abortion is currently legal in South Carolina before 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters Tuesday he will urge both chambers to work hard to come to an agreement and send him a bill that the consensus of people in South Carolina believe is reasonable.