South Carolina passes six-week abortion ban

·2-min read

South Carolina's Senate has passed a ban on most abortions after fetal cardiac activity begins, around six weeks.

The hotly contested bill, which Republican Governor Henry McMaster is expected to sign, passed mostly along party lines, with the notable exception of the state senate's five women members - three Republicans, a Democrat and an independent - who all opposed it.

"What we are doing today is not going to do away with illegal abortions - it is going to cause illegal abortions," said state Senator Sandy Senn, a Republican who was among the five female senators, who successfully blocked an even more stringent ban last month.

"When … your teenagers end up dying because they went to get an illegal abortion because they didn't know they were pregnant before six weeks - it is our fault."

The Republican-backed bill, which bans most abortions before many women know they are pregnant, is a revised version of an earlier measure that the state Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. It allows abortions up to 12 weeks in cases of rape and incest, and provides an exception for medical emergencies.

If the measure survives anticipated court challenges, it will block a flow of women from nearby southern states with ultra-conservative abortion laws who have been coming to South Carolina for care.

Last year, the US Supreme Court eliminated a nearly 50-year-old federal right to abortion by overturning the Roe v Wade decision, leading to a number of other states across the south to greatly restrict abortions.

State Senator Shane Massey, a Republican who supported the ban, defended the measure as a way to bring South Carolina's abortion restrictions more in line with other southern states. She said it had remedied the errors that caused the state Supreme Court to rule that it violated the state constitutional right to privacy.

"South Carolina has become the abortion capital of the Southeast," Massey said during Tuesday's debate.

Abortion rights advocates said they would once again sue to block the measure.

"We'll see you in court," Planned Parenthood South Atlantic posted on Twitter moments after Tuesday's vote.

It was not immediately clear whether the new ban would be overturned like the prior one, because the state Supreme Court has a new member who is more conservative.

Abortions are currently allowed in South Carolina through the first 22 weeks of pregnancy, one of the most permissive abortion laws in the region.