The Senate has approved a compromise on a bill banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, permitting an exception in cases of fetal anomalies but without any exceptions for rape or incest.
The Senate on Tuesday approved the work of a conference committee by a vote of 36-9.
The bill, called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act, was originally authored by Rep. Wendy Nanney of Greenville and has been before both bodies for three years.
The bill bans abortions in cases in which pregnancies are at 20 weeks or more with an exception for medical emergencies.
The Senate added exceptions for rape, incest and severe fetal anomalies. But a conference committee made up of three House members and three senators agreed to drop the exceptions for rape and incest.
Sen. Brad Hutto, an Orangeburg Democrat, said he disagreed with that decision and was voting against the bill.
He said the logic involved is that at least rape and incest victims have 19 weeks to consider what to do about their pregnancy, but those discovering a fatal fetal anomaly might not discover it until tests are done at 19 weeks.
"That's a terrible thing for us as a policy matter to be deciding in this state and that's why I am voting no," he said.
Hutto said lawmakers have no business dictating to women what they should do about their healthcare.
"I have faith in the women of South Carolina that they know best what to do when the time comes to make a decision about their bodies," he said.
Sen. Ray Cleary, a Murrell's Inlet Republican who led the senators in the conference committee, said the final bill is an "excellent result."
"I think everybody on this bill compromised," he said.
Melissa Reed, executive director for Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, said the group was dismayed in the "surprise" vote.
"The reality is that this unpopular legislation is simply part of a broader agenda to chip away at safe and legal abortion in South Carolina," she said. "We call on Gov. Nikki Haley to put women’s health before politics and veto this extreme bill.”
The bill passed the House early last year by a vote of 80-27.
Once the compromise passes the House, it will head to the governor's desk.