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S.C. Senate Stalls on 20-Week Ban

May 18, 2015 — South Carolina Sen. Lee Bright (R) on Thursday began filibustering a bill (H 3114) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks, citing opposition to an amendment that would add exemptions for rape and incest to the measure, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports.

According to the AP/Chronicle, Bright has pledged to continue blocking the bill through the remainder of the session (Adcox, AP/Houston Chronicle, 5/14). The session ends on June 4 (Self, "The Buzz," Columbia State, 5/14).

State Sen. Larry Grooms (R) has said the legislation likely is dead (AP/Houston Chronicle, 5/14).

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 unfounded claim 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.

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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/1).

Debate

Bright on Thursday said he opposed an amendment to the measure, proposed by state Sen. Brad Hutto (D), that would include exemptions in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal anomalies or when a woman's life or health is endangered (Greenville Gazette, 5/14).

Hutto said the exemptions would help preserve access to abortions for some of the woman who seek them at that point of gestation. Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, which both oppose the underlying bill, also expressed support for the proposed exemptions ("The Buzz," Columbia State, 5/14).

Bright during his filibuster said that if the proposal was passed, he would try to block other bills that currently are before the state Senate.

According to the Gazette, Grooms made two motions to make Bright stand down, but both failed to win the necessary votes. A motion to carry the bill over also failed, and the state Senate then voted to adjourn (Greenville Gazette, 5/14).