Politics & Government

SC Senate votes to outlaw virtually all abortions in South Carolina

The S.C. Senate voted Wednesday night to outlaw virtually all abortions in South Carolina.

The Legislature’s upper chamber voted 28-10 to allow exceptions only in cases of rape, incest or medical emergencies that could seriously harm the pregnant woman or threaten her life. The bill still faces long odds to passage, up against a Democratic filibuster that could put off a final Senate vote until after lawmakers adjourn for the year.

If passed, the new law almost certainly would spark a court challenge. But that is the goal, according to Senate Republicans who want to overturn the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming abortion rights.

"It's designed to give the court an opportunity to revisit Roe v. Wade," said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield.

The proposal likely would ban some 97 percent of the roughly 5,700 abortions performed in South Carolina each year, according to the Democrat who suggested Republicans adopt it.

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"It's clearly unconstitutional from my point of view," said state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

Just before 10 p.m. Wednesday, Hutto proposed the expanded abortion ban as an amendment to a House bill outlawing "dismemberment" abortion, a rare procedure used to terminate 22 pregnancies in 2016.

Hutto said his aim was to give Senate Republicans a chance to vote on the bill they really want so the S.C. Legislature doesn't continue to be bogged down year after year with debates on more nuanced abortion restrictions.

Settling the abortion issue would mean S.C. lawmakers can get to other important topics, including South Carolina's $9 billion nuclear fiasco, Hutto said.

“It’s an attempt to get it to the courts so we don’t have to keep debating it over and over and over,” said Hutto, an attorney who said he is confident the courts would strike down the abortion ban in a court challenge.

Reach Wilks at 803-771-8362. Follow him on Twitter @AveryGWilks.