By JEFFREY COLLINS – Associated Press
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — For the past three decades, lawmakers in South Carolina have banned access to abortion, requiring ultrasounds, parental consent, and 24-hour waiting times, and banning the procedure early in pregnancy: first after 20 weeks, then after six.
But now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared a path to outlaw abortion in the state, some are taking a step back. Politicians, mostly Republicans, note what happened this month in Kansas, where nearly 60% of voters rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the state’s conservative legislature to ban abortion. Republican Donald Trump won 56% of the 2020 Kansas presidential election. Trump won 55% in South Carolina.
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“The Kansas vote confirms what most of us know,” said Senator Sandy Senn, the only Republican senator to vote against the six-week abortion ban 18 months ago. “It’s the people in my party, most of them all men, who shouted the loudest that women should have no choice from the moment of conception.”
Senn says that while she personally believes that “all babies should be born,” she also believes that people should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to continue with a pregnancy for the first few months.
South Carolina lawmakers are also looking to other Republican-dominated lawmakers. Indiana passed a nearly complete abortion ban Friday after several days of debate, while the West Virginia House and Senate could not immediately agree on further restrictions.
A total ban on abortion with exceptions only when the mother’s life is in danger has just begun by the South Carolina General Assembly. Committee hearings and floor debates in the House and Senate will have to take place before a bill lands on Republican government leader Henry McMaster’s desk.
Republican legislative leaders agreed to the special session after the U.S. Supreme Court overthrown Roe v. Wade in June. But instead of repeating the arguments that lawmakers had in early 2021 when they banned abortions after heart activity was detected — after about six weeks — some Republicans have begun to reevaluate their positions.
“It’s like playing with live ammunition now. What you decide will have an immediate effect on many South Carolinas,” said Republican Rep. Tom Davis, who voted to ban cardiac abortion last year after adding exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest and those who die. endanger the pregnant woman.
Davis said he is now reconsidering the whole issue, balancing a fetus’s rights to live against a person’s rights to control its own body.
He says he will also consider the views of people in his affluent coastal district around Hilton Head Island. And he plans to take steps to improve prenatal care and give people more emotional and financial support during and after pregnancies.
Rep. Bill Taylor was just behind McMaster when he signed the six-week ban. Last month, he sent an email to his constituents titled “WHAT’S THE RUSH,” saying South Carolina shouldn’t rush to issue a complete ban now.
Instead, the state should step back a few years to see how its new law banning the procedure after six weeks works, the Republican legislator said. South Carolina should also investigate what is happening in states that now have total bans and others that allow abortions later in pregnancies and study foster care and other social service programs to see what can be done to help them cope with a influx of births, he said. . About 6,300 abortions were performed in South Carolina in 2021.
“So many questions, so few answers and solutions,” Taylor wrote in the email, which also included the statement: “I cherish God’s amazing gift of life. I gladly accept the label pro-life.”
One of the reasons some abortion opponents don’t want to wait to pass a tougher abortion ban is McMaster, who will be re-elected in November. His Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham, has pledged to veto any bill that further restricts abortion. Republicans have a few votes short of the two-thirds it takes to override vetoes in both the House and Senate.
Opponents of abortion have come a long way to get South Carolina where it is. Legislators first gathered in a significant way in the late 1980s and stepped up their actions in the following decades.
In 1990, they passed a law requiring the consent of a parent or a judge before a minor could have an abortion. In 1994 they imposed strict requirements on abortion clinics. And in 1997, they passed a law banning partial birth abortions, which is rare.
In 2008, a law required mothers to sign a form telling them they could watch an ultrasound before an abortion, and in 2010, a 24-hour waiting period was passed. A 20-week abortion ban, which proponents say is the point a fetus can feel pain, was passed in 2018. Before the June ruling, the Supreme Court had never allowed states to ban abortion before the point at about 24 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb.
Republican Senator Larry Grooms, who has made ending abortion one of the biggest issues of his 25 years in the Senate, said he wants a complete ban because his goal is “to save every life he can” — but he’s not going to demand a certain bill, because “when you make all or nothing, you can end up with nothing.”
“Every pro-life law we’ve passed over the past 25 years has helped people understand the humanity of the child,” Grooms said.
Legislature Democrats say it’s too late for reflection, given the Supreme Court’s decision and the fact that the state has already severely restricted abortion. They fear that all sorts of things will be brought up, including criminalizing women who want to have an abortion in one way or another.
“I think we’re going to fall between the crazy and the insane,” said Democratic House minority leader Todd Rutherford. “Where that line is makes no sense. And we shouldn’t be in this position in the first place.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.
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