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Amended abortion bill heads back to South Carolina House

The South Carolina Senate in September debates a near-total abortion ban passed by the state's House of Representatives.
South Carolina Senate
The South Carolina Senate in September debates a near-total abortion ban passed by the state's House of Representatives.

The South Carolina House of Representatives on Tuesday is scheduled to consider an abortion bill passed earlier this month by the state Senate.

The Senate measure would ban abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and narrow the exceptions included in the state’s existing “fetal heartbeat” law. Instead of allowing abortions for victims of rape and incest up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Senate bill would reduce that window to 12 weeks. It would also allow for abortions if the mother’s life or health are threatened or if the fetus has a fatal anomaly as confirmed by two physicians.

The Senate’s proposed bill is less stringent than the near-total abortion ban passed by the House in August, which would have outlawed all abortions in the state except in cases where the mother’s life was in danger or if the pregnancy was the result of sexual assault for up to 12 weeks. State senators on Sept. 8 lacked the support to pass a near-total ban, and Republicans were unable to overcome a filibuster.

Politics Poll: Strong support in South for abortion in cases of rape, severe birth defects Steve Harrison

“All options are on the table,” House Speaker Murrell Smith, a Republican, told reporters when asked whether the House would accept the Senate’s changes to the bill when it reconvenes Tuesday, according to The State newspaper. Murrell added that he was “disappointed” in the Senate’s version.

“I understand each body has a different makeup and each body has the ability to put their imprint on the bill, and certainly I respect the Senate as a body and their votes. Obviously, the House is vastly different from their position, but that’s the legislative process,” he said, The State reported.

House Majority Leader Davey Hiott, also a Republican, reportedly agreed. “I don’t think that moved the needle at all when it comes to the pro-life community,” Hiott said.

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s fetal heartbeat law as of Monday remained temporarily blocked by the state’s Supreme Court while justices considered whether the measure violates the state’s constitution and a right to privacy.

The House is scheduled to meet Tuesday beginning at 2 p.m. If the House agrees with the Senate’s proposed changes, the bill heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. If they don’t, the bill goes to a committee, where three House members and three senators will be tasked with reaching a compromise for both chambers.

Copyright 2022 WFAE. To see more, visit WFAE.

Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literture and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, Claire likes listening to podcasts and trying out new recipes.