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S.C. Senate Overrides Procedural Block, Set To Consider 20-Week Abortion Ban

S.C. Senate Overrides Procedural Block, Set To Consider 20-Week Abortion Ban

May 1, 2015 — South Carolina lawmakers voted to override a block barring a 20-week abortion ban bill (H 3114) from reaching the state Senate, meaning the full chamber is scheduled to take up the measure, the Columbia Free Times reports.

The state House already approved the original version of the bill. State lawmakers have a deadline of May 1 to approve a measure in either the state House or Senate for it to be considered by the other legislative chamber (Moore, Columbia Free Times, 4/29).

Background

Current state law bans abortion at 24 weeks, with an exception for endangerment to a woman's life.

The 20-week legislation is based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Wendy Nanney (R), would permit abortion after 20 weeks to save a woman's life. If an abortion is needed to save a woman's life, a physician would be required to remove the fetus using a method that would give the fetus the best chance of survival. In addition, physicians would be required in such cases to report certain data to the state, including the method of abortion used and the age of the woman.

Further, the bill would require physicians to determine the length of gestation prior to performing abortions, except in cases of endangerment to a woman's life. Physicians convicted of violating the law could face fines of up to $10,000 and potential jail time of up to three years.

Earlier this month, a state Senate committee amended the bill to include exceptions for victims of rape, incest and in instances where "severe fetal anomalies" would prevent fetal survival (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/20).

Procedural Block Removed

State senators voted to override a procedural block -- known as a minority report -- on the measure that prevented the chamber from debating the bill (Columbia Free Times, 4/29).

State Sens. Brad Hutto (D) and Joel Lourie (D) placed the minority report because they believed the bill would impede women's reproductive rights. The minority report required two-thirds of the full state Senate to vote to remove the block in order to send it to the full chamber for consideration (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/20).

According to the Free Times, other state senators voted to send the bill to the full chamber for "special order." The measure now is one of the top three priority bills on the chamber's legislative calendar.

Meanwhile, Lourie and other state lawmakers have expressed concern that debate over the 20-week ban could stall consideration of other major priorities before the May 1 deadline, the Free Times reports. Specifically, Lourie said it would be a "terrible mistake" for the state Senate to take up the 20-week ban before acting on other priorities, including a road improvement bill (Columbia Free Times, 4/29).