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Senate OKs 20-week abortion ban with exceptions

Sen, Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, speaks at a news conference on Tuesday at the State House featuring women who were conceived during a rape or impregnated by a rapist.
Sen, Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, speaks at a news conference on Tuesday at the State House featuring women who were conceived during a rape or impregnated by a rapist. ashain@thestate.com

The S.C. Senate gave key approval to a version bill Tuesday that would halt abortions at the 20th week of pregnancy with exceptions in cases of rape, incest or severe fetal anomaly.

The Senate has changed a version of the proposal that passed the S.C. House that did not include the exceptions, setting up a fight in conference committee. Less than 30 abortions at 20 weeks or later of pregnancy are performed in South Carolina annually, according to state data.

Sen. Larry Grooms, a Berkeley Republican who authored an abortion bill with no exceptions, said he would accept a bill that would restrict abortions in cases of rape, incest or severe fetal anomaly to win a 20-week ban.

“This was a victory for the rights of the unborn,” he said.

Sen. Lee Bright, a staunch pro-life supporter who vowed to filibuster the bill because it included the exceptions, said senators caved into pressure from S.C. Citizens for Life, which wanted the proposal to move forward.

The Spartanburg Republican said pro-life group leaders believe they will be able to get a abortion bill that includes no exceptions.

“This is on their backs now,” said Bright, who voted for the bill.

Efforts to reach the president at S.C. Citizens for Life were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

Oran Smith, president of the Palmetto Family Council who has worked with pro-life groups on the bill, said, with time running out in the session, “We need to take what we can get.” Still, anti-abortion backers would take a closer look at the exception language in the Senate bill, he said.

A final, essentially ceremonial, vote on the Senate bill is expected Wednesday.

Bright tried hard to convince lawmakers they should not allow any exceptions.

He filibustered the bill last week. On Tuesday, Bright brought women who said they were either conceived during a rape or impregnated by rapists to the State House.

“This is a pro-life state,” Bright said at the news conference. “If these babies aren’t allowed to survive, then these politicians shouldn’t survive their re-elections.”

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