South Carolina Abortion Legislation Update (September 16, 2022)
After intense debate in the South Carolina House of Representatives and then the Senate, the chambers passed differing pieces of legislation governing abortion in the state.
On August 31, the state House of Representative passed House Bill 5399 that would prohibit abortion in the state. The language of the bill included exceptions to protect the life of the pregnant woman and included an except for rape and incest during the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy. The exception for rape and incest was included at the last minute when it became clear the bill would not pass without it.
HB 5399 became the main legislative vehicle for debate in the Senate. The initial version that was sent to the floor of the senate by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee removed the exceptions added by the house. Again, after realization that the bill without exceptions did not have the votes to pass the Senate, the language in HB 5399 was replaced with language that would amend the exception in the state’s existing 12-week abortion ban law to limit abortion for rape and incest to the first trimester and on the exception for fetal anomaly to require at least “physicians specializing in obstetrics or the area of medicine in which the anomaly is diagnosed”. The law’s exception to protect the life of the woman during an emergency was not amended.
August 29, 2022
The South Carolina legislature is considering two differing bills, House Bill 5399 and Senate Bill 1373, that would further restrict abortion in the state. South Carolina currently has a law the permits abortion until after six weeks and includes provisions
H5399 is further along in the process advancing out of the House Judiciary Committee August 16th on a 13-7 vote. The House bill would prohibit abortion including in the case of incest or rape, however, provides a narrow exception and ”shall declare, in a written document, that the medical procedure was necessary, by reasonable medical judgment, to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, a substantial risk of death for the pregnant woman because of a physical condition; or to prevent the substantial risk of a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman, not including psychological or emotional conditions.” The bill also permits a relative of the “unborn child” including father, maternal and paternal aunt, uncle, or grandparent to file a civil action against a person including a physician for violating the law.
The House bill could be voted on as early as August 30th.
The South Carolina Senate is considering a more restrictive bill in S1377, that would also prohibit abortions however provides no exception for the woman’s health and includes a gag clause prohibiting physicians from discussing with a patient about potential options that would include abortion presumably performed outside the state. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee held a hearing on August 31 to take public testimony. The South Carolina College of Emergency Physicians sent a letter to the Committee highlighting concerns with the Senate bill.
Senate President Thomas Alexander called on the state’s senators to return to the capitol on September 7th and prepare for debate on legislation, either the House bill in anticipation it will be passed before then or the S1377.