Why It Matters
If the bill is passed by the Senate, it would then head to the governor’s desk. His approval, if granted, would dramatically reduce abortion access for women in the state and across the region.
Most Southern states have passed abortion bans since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last June. But because the South Carolina legislature has not been able to agree on the terms of a ban, the state still allows abortion up until 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion providers say this makes the state a crucial access point for women in other Southern states, especially since North Carolina this week passed a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks.
Abortion opponents, as well as some lawmakers who support a right to abortion, worry that the state has become a destination for the procedure.
The bill will test a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in January, which found a right to abortion in the state Constitution and struck down a previous six-week ban.
That opinion was written by the court’s only female justice, who retired shortly after. The legislature replaced her with a man, who was supported by the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House.
Republicans are hoping that the new court will overturn the abortion decision, allowing a stricter ban. But the House and the Senate, despite both being controlled by Republicans, haven’t been able to agree on where to draw the line.
The House is more conservative and tried to pass a ban on most abortions starting at conception. The Senate considered and rejected that bill three times this year, blocked by the five women of the chamber — three Republicans, a Democrat and an independent — who call themselves the “Sister Senators.”
The women have suggested a ban after the first trimester, or putting the question of abortion rights to voters on a ballot initiative, but Senate leadership has rejected those measures.
Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican who supports a six-week ban, called the Senate into its own special session next week to debate the House version of the bill.
The “Sister Senators” have said that they will filibuster again, which could block a final vote on the bill.
While two of the Republicans in that group voted in favor of the six-week ban that the Senate passed in February, they have said that they cannot support the amendments that the House added in the bill.