A bill being considered by South Carolina lawmakers could ban all abortions in the Palmetto State should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
The bill, filed by state Sens. Richard Cash, R-Anderson, and cosponsored by three other conservative senators, took its first steps toward passage Wednesday during a Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee hearing.
Roe v. Wade is in a contentious position after being the law of the land since 1973, when the Supreme Court voted to protect a women’s right to an abortion.
The conservative-majority court is considering a case from Mississippi that could weaken or even overturn Roe v. Wade. The court is expected to release a decision in the coming months, but during arguments in December, justices questioned the foundation of Roe v. Wade, appearing poised against it.
The court also heard arguments on a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks, which allows citizens to privately sue anyone suspected of aiding or abetting an abortion, opening up the law for legal challenges but stopping short of blocking it.
Cash, who files a bill each session with the aim to ban all abortions, said he was inspired to introduce his bill after reading news stories about the court’s December hearing. Cash said 12 other states have “trigger laws” that would seriously restrict or ban abortions immediately after Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Under the South Carolina bill, a pregnancy would be defined as beginning at fertilization. There would also be no exceptions for rape or incest.
“It is an equal protection for unborn babies act,” Cash said.
Kelly Rowe, a board member for the Personhood Alliance of South Carolina, was in support of the bill and called for protections for the unborn.
“Abortion murders human beings, which denies them protection under our state’s rule of law and our country’s rule of law,” Rowe said.
Dr. Dawn Bingham, vice chair of the South Carolina section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, testified that abortions are safe because they are legal. Making abortions illegal means women could seek out unsafe abortion options.
She added that forcing women to be pregnant could also increase South Carolina’s already high maternal mortality rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24.7 of every 100,000 South Carolina women die in childbirth — one of the highest mortality rates in the country.
Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, said the bill would be an attack on doctors, criminalizing them for giving care. Under the bill, those who perform or induce an abortion could face the same penalty as murder charges.
“Its like a tar-and-feather of doctors,” Colleton said.
Two Republican committee members acknowledged the bill needed more work, specifically to address concerns about how it would affect certain fertility treatments and children who were the victim of rape or incest.
Cash pushed for his bill to pass this session ahead of when the court is expected to give a decision in the Mississippi case, which likely will happen over the summer.
The bill was advanced to the full Medical Affairs Committee with a vote of 3-2 down party lines.
Another ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill filed
The piece of legislation was considered alongside another filed by Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley — the author of a strict “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban bill passed by the Legislature last year — that would require doctors to give patients getting the abortion pill a paper explaining that the effects could be reversed if the patient changes her mind after taking the first pill.
“We feel like this is a bill that we’ve needed for a long time,” Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, testified. “It’s a bill that’s catching up with a practice that’s going on and certainly, it’s important for these girls to get information on what’s going on.”
Multiple OBGYN doctors testified against the bill Wednesday morning, saying there is no medically recognized proof that the abortion pills could be reversed. They said the bill would force them to give potentially false information not backed by studies to patients.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), claims that chemical abortions can be reversed are “not based on science and do not meet clinical standards. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ranks its recommendations on the strength of the evidence, and does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medical abortion.”
“S907 forces me to lie, to say something that is untrue and potentially dangerous,” Dr. Carol Alan testified.
Lawmakers voted to advance the bill to the full Medical Affairs Committee.
The bills mark the latest efforts to restrict abortions in South Carolina.
Last year, the Legislature passed a strict “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban bill that would have stopped most abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected via ultrasound. Soon after the bill was signed into law by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, a judge blocked it from going into effect. The bill has remained blocked since.