The S.C. House Judiciary Committee discusses a bill that would put a complete ban on abortion in South Carolina. The bill would include exceptions for abortions involving rape, incest and fatal fetal anomaly victims. (Photo by Taylor Beltz)

The South Carolina House will debate a near-complete abortion ban after a 16-7 vote in full committee on Tuesday. 

A similar six-week abortion ban was deemed unconstitutional in January by the S.C. Supreme Court, which said it conflicted with privacy rules in the state constitution. The new bill was introduced in the House a few weeks later.  

“Aside from my religious beliefs that life begins at conception, science has confirmed this as a fact …,” said Rep. John McCravy III, R-Greenwood, the sponsor of the bill, during the full committee meeting. “This bill recognizes that fact and protects life anytime there is a clinically diagnosable pregnancy.”

The timing of the bill is “extreme and out of touch,” according to Jace Woodrum, the executive director for the ACLU of South Carolina. 

Due to the amount of public verbal testimony that was heard on the issue last year, the House has given a limited amount of time for testimony during the recent subcommittee meeting.  

But lawmakers also didn’t allow time for the public to speak during the full committee meeting.  

“I’m really disappointed in the decision by our legislators not to listen to public comment on this,” Woodrum said. “They claim that they heard plenty last session. But this is a new session. There are new legislators. Those new legislators should have the same opportunity to hear from the public. And the public should have the same opportunity to share their opinions.” 

In January, some people said they were told prior to the subcommittee meeting they would only be able submit written testimony. But the day of the meeting, they were told that verbal testimony would be allowed, according to Ashley Lidow from the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network.

More than 200 emails and 400 pages of written testimony were submitted to the full committee, said Rep. Wallace Jordan Jr., R-Florence.

The issue had been examined in-depth by lawmakers last year after hours of verbal and written testimony, Jordan said. 

The bill goes further than the six-week ban rejected by the S.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 5. It includes exceptions for rape, incest and fatal fetal anomalies, although it would require doctors to report cases of rape and incest to the police. 

When doctors have been able to testify in the past, they’ve said “even the exceptions for life of the mother and so forth, in practice are very, very difficult to implement,” Lynn Teague of the League of Women’s Voters told The Carolina News & Reporter. 

The exceptions outlined in the bill can cause other medical implications for pregnant people, according to Vicki Ringer, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.  

“What we’ve seen in states that have been implementing these types of rules, are doctors have to wait until women get so sick that they nearly die,” Ringer said. “And doctors have repeatedly said that this is not the way to provide care to women.” 

The bill also would defund Planned Parenthood, which Ringer said will only affect those on Medicaid.  

There also would be implications for those without health insurance, Teague said.

“Anytime they demonize Planned Parenthood, it’s very upsetting to me,” Teague said. “I am old now. But when I was a young woman, a student without much money, Planned Parenthood gave me all of the medical care I got for years. And they are still doing that for many people who have no other source of healthcare.” 

Maintaining checks and balances in South Carolina is a concern for the ACLU’s Woodrum. 

“The Supreme Court is a check on the Legislature to ensure that it does not infringe upon the rights of South Carolinians,” Woodrum said. “And instead of taking the ruling and doing better, they’re taking the ruling and pushing us backwards.”

The Senate is on schedule soon to debate a separate bill that would ban abortion after six weeks. That’s the same premise as the one the state Supreme Court recently rejected. But there’s a new justice on the court now. And for the first time in 35 years, the court has no female members.