COLUMBIA, S.C. — A day after a new, more restrictive abortion law went into effect in South Carolina, state lawmakers are working on a near complete ban on the procedure that could be put into effect in the coming weeks.
The moves come after last Friday's landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave the future of abortion to individual states.
In the State Senate Tuesday, the "Equal Protection at Conception No Exemption Act" was introduced by Senators Rex Rice and Richard Cash. It would completely ban medical abortions as well as abortion pills such as mifepristone and misoprostol.
The only exemption would be to save the life of a mother and that must be documented. It does specifically have language saying that invitro fertilization and contraception would not be affected.
The measure would also make it illegal for people to help women get information on how to get an abortion if that information will likely lead to a woman getting the procedure or a drug. It also outlaws the manufacture and sale of abortion drugs. The penalty for both violations is a felony with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. There are no punishments mentioned for a woman seeking the abortion.
On the House side, an ad hoc committee--meaning created for a single purpose-- has been formed to re-evaluate South Carolina abortion laws, and on Tuesday, it was announced that its first meeting will take place Thursday, July 7. The committee will discuss H. 5399, a bill filed on the last day of this year's session which would prohibit abortions in the state. However, the exact wording of the bill must be decided by this committee.
"I look forward to the considerable testimony the committee will take and I anticipate the committee's ultimate recommendation for legislative action," said House Speaker Murrell Smith said in a written statement.
Rep. John McCravy will chair the committee as it reaches a decision on the language it wants to use. “I am honored to lead this Committee as we act swiftly and justly to determine how to best protect life in South Carolina,” McCravy said.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a longtime abortion foe, told reporters Tuesday he welcomed the efforts by lawmakers. "I look forward to a day where we don't have any abortions in South Carolina and we won't need exceptions," he said.
A day earlier, the state's current abortion measure, the fetal heartbeat law, went into effect after it had been blocked by judges since it was signed into law in February of 2021. After the Supreme Court's ruling, the law could no longer be blocked on grounds that it violated the precedent set by Roe, leading U.S. Circuit Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis to issue a stay on her original injunction order, ending the last legal roadblock to the law taking effect.
The fetal heartbeat measure outlaws abortions at six weeks and has exemptions for rape and incest. But now, lawmakers now are poised to go a step further.
That prospect didn't sit well with abortion rights protestors at the State House Tuesday brought together by the Womens Right and Empowerment Network (WREN). Several dozen of them gathered in the lobby to make sure their voices are heard and to oppose what lawmakers are planning.
"Right now in South Carolina we have 40 percent of children living in a single mother household are living in poverty. why aren't we addressing these issues instead forcing a woman to give birth?" one protestor named Natasha said.
While the abortion rights protestors were the majority who came to the State House, there were anti-abortion protestors there as well.
A special session would be needed to have a full debate and pass any of the new legislation, and while a date for that hasn't been announced, leaders in the House and Senate have all but said that will happen. Lawmakers allowed for the potential for such a move in last day of the session when they said they could come back if Roe was thrown out.