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South Carolina lawmakers advance near-total abortion ban to full Senate after stripping rape and incest exceptions

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The South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs Committee advanced House Bill 5399 in a 9-8 vote, with two Republicans joining Democrats in voting against it. The Senate is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

Several members of the state Senate, as well as the House, have said they cannot support a bill that does not include an exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.

The state Senate committee voted 7-3 on Tuesday morning to eliminate an exception added by the state House last week for cases of rape or incest up to 12 weeks after conception, with required reporting to law enforcement.

The committee vote to amend the bill involved only Republican men, as Democrats on the committee abstained from the vote in an apparent strategic move to reduce the bill’s chances of passing in the full Senate.

“This is a bad bill,” state Democratic Sen. Marlon Kimpson said, explaining why he abstained from voting. “You can’t put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig. Exceptions do not make abortion restrictions less harmful. We, as lawmakers, should not be in a position to decide who gets an abortion and who does not get an abortion. “

During the committee meeting, Republican state Sen. Tom Davis offered nearly a dozen amendments that were not adopted by the committee, including a proposed amendment that would add an exception for fatal fetal anomalies.

HB 5399, as currently written, would ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with only limited exceptions to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, the substantial risk of death for the pregnant woman because of a physical condition or “the substantial physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” The bill lists several medical conditions it deems pose such a risk to the pregnant woman, including a molar pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia and a miscarriage.

The House had amended the near-total abortion ban a week before to add the exception for cases of rape and incest up to 12 weeks after conception, with reporting requirements. That amendment — a major point of contention among Republicans — was adopted by voice vote in a hasty reconsideration of the original bill, which had just been rejected by the House earlier in the night due to the lack of exceptions.

That amendment was then removed by the Senate committee on Tuesday.

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