COLUMBIA – Less than a week after being passed by the South Carolina Senate, a bill to ban most abortions in the state began its legislative journey in the House on February 3 with a hearing of the Deputy committee which included nearly four hours of moving testimony from the two supporters. and opponents of the measure.
The so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortions after about six to eight weeks of pregnancy, appears to be heading for a likely move into the Republican-dominated legislature, as even major critics Democrats admit he already has more than enough. vote for a majority.
But that did not deter dozens of Southern Carolinians from attending in person or virtually to testify in three minutes on the bill, including several who said they have already testified several times in the past years, this which will probably be their last. chance to do so before heading towards probable legal challenges.
The subcommittee ultimately voted 3-2 along party lines to move the bill forward. It is expected to get a full committee hearing next week before moving on to the House floor for a full-house vote soon after.
Republican Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette said that by supporting the bill, she hoped the state “would end up on the right side of history.” Governor Henry McMaster has repeatedly promised to sign the bill if it reaches his office.
“If we use the heart rate as a scientific test to know when our life is ending, I think it makes sense that we use it to determine when our life begins,” said Evette, who also testified before a panel of the Senate on the bill. .
Susan Dunn, the longtime legal director of the South Carolina branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that several states that had passed similar bills felt the courts were swiftly overturning them as unconstitutional.
“All you would do in the world for the citizens of South Carolina is buy a lawsuit,” Dunn said.
Most supporters of the bill agree that it will initially be overturned by the lower courts, but they hope these cases will prompt the United States Supreme Court to reconsider its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which found that the women have a constitutional right to abortion.
Hayden Tomlin, from Ireland who said he moved to South Carolina about three years ago, warned that his country’s experience shows the complications that banning abortion can cause. Ireland banned abortions until 2019, but Tomlin said it simply forced many women to travel to other jurisdictions, like England, to get them.
“The heartbreaking and lonely journey of these women to a foreign country to undergo a traumatic procedure in secret,” said Tomlin, “is truly a disgrace and a bane to the history of my country.”
Holly Gatling, the executive director of anti-abortion SC Citizens for Life, urged lawmakers to approve the bill in the same form as passed by the Senate without amending it in any way.
This would speed up the process, as it would prevent House and Senate negotiators from meeting and reconciling their differences. Politically, it would also mean that the bill would continue to include exceptions for cases of rape or incest, which some Republicans oppose.
One of the more controversial provisions added to the Senate would require doctors to provide the names and contact details of women who have abortions due to the rape or incest exception to the local sheriff.
Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano, the state’s only female sheriff, denounced the proposal, warning that it would “revictimize the victim.” Republican supporters have said they hope it will help the state tackle violent crime.
Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.