CHARLESTON, SC (CN) — A bill that would ban most abortions after about six weeks was narrowly approved by the South Carolina Senate without the support of the assembly’s five women senators.
The coalition known as the “sister senators,” which includes three Republicans, one Democrat and one independent, opposed the bill after it passed the House last week with amendments that further restricted abortions.
Republican Senator Katrina Shealy voted in favor of a similar version of the fetal heartbeat bill in February, but the legislation was sent to the House with a warning.
“We told them — don’t change a semicolon,” Shealy said.
House Republicans ignored the warning, opponents said. They added new provisions that would allow doctors to be sued for violating the proposal and requiring additional paperwork for patients to sign, Shealy said. They also deleted a section that allowed minors to petition the court to obtain an abortion at up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“We’ve got an S in front of our names — and it’s not for senator, it’s for sucker,” Shealy said.
Shealy’s comments reflected how fractious the abortion debate has been in the Republican-controlled legislature. The chamber has taken up four abortion bills since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, but failed to pass any until this week.
An older state law banning abortions when fetal cardiac activity is detected, or after about six weeks of pregnancy, went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned, but the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in February that the law violated the state Constitution’s right to privacy.
As a result, abortion has, up to this point, remained legal through 22 weeks in South Carolina, though other regulations largely block access after the first trimester.
The House passed a bill later that month banning nearly all abortions, but it failed to garner enough votes to pass the Senate.
Senator Penry Gustafson, a Republican, said such a strict ban would be “cuckoo.”
Lawmakers have often discussed during the debate how abortion has impacted their own lives, revealing how unexpected pregnancies and miscarriages have shaped their own opinions on the contentious issue. Senator Mike Reichenbach told colleagues Tuesday his mother gave him up for adoption as a teenager rather than obtain an illegal abortion.
Republican Senator Sandy Senn said the bill would lead to more illegal abortions. If a teenage girl dies because she gets an illegal abortion, “It’s our fault,” she said.
Governor Henry McMaster said on Twitter Tuesday that the General Assembly has handled the abortion issue in a "thoughtful, transparent and collaborative manner."
"Tonight, our state is one step closer to protecting more innocent lives," the Republican said. "I look forward to signing this bill into law as soon as possible."
Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly enacted a 12-week abortion ban last week after overriding the Democratic governor’s veto. Virginia would be the last state in The South to permits abortion into the second trimester after South Carolina's law goes into effect.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.