Advocates for, against abortion access say fight isn’t over after bill fails at SC State House
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A push to further restrict or even ban abortion in South Carolina is now over for this year, but advocates fighting for and against that effort say their work is not over.
Throughout this summer and fall, lawmakers spent hours hearing public testimony, sitting in meetings, and debating abortion, all to result in the state’s restrictions staying exactly as they are. For now, South Carolina’s “Fetal Heartbeat Law” bans most abortions after around six weeks, but pending a ruling from the state Supreme Court over the legality of that law, abortion is legal before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Republicans control both the state Senate and the House of Representatives, and many of them wanted to further restrict South Carolina’s abortion law following the US Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade this summer.
“We were happy of course, but we had no idea how it would play out,” A Moment of Hope founder and executive director Mark Baumgarter said. His organization offers free ultrasounds and pregnancy tests out of an RV parked outside Planned Parenthood in Columbia every day the clinic is open.
Before the state legislature ended its regular legislative session in May, it passed a resolution allowing members to be called back to Columbia for a special session if Roe was repealed.
“We knew we were going to come back for a fight. We just didn’t know what that would look like,” Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) Director of Policy and Government Relations Ashley Lidow said.
But ultimately, there were factions among those Republicans, and they were not able to come to an agreement over how restrictive to make a new law after the House passed a ban from conception with limited exceptions and the Senate passed a modification of the current six-week ban.
“It brings to mind that picture of Charlie Brown getting the football yanked away from him every time he went to kick it, and I feel that way with our state legislators,” Baumgartner said.
He had hoped and expected the Republican-dominated General Assembly would have imposed tighter abortion restrictions in the months immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Our hope is that the senators and the representatives will continue pushing forward to be a voice for the unborn,” Baumgartner said.
Other South Carolinians had been working to stop the abortion-ban bill taken up in the legislature.
“Everything as a community that we have worked for to defeat a total abortion ban has happened, which is a great thing,” Lidow said. “That’s a good feeling to know that a new law isn’t going the governor’s desk and new lawsuits don’t have to be filed.”
Lidow said that effort was a continuation of the work WREN has been doing for years to protect abortion access in South Carolina, like opposing the six-week ban before it became law in early 2021 and fighting other abortion-restriction legislation that failed to become law earlier in 2022.
She said they haven’t gotten a moment to catch their breath until now.
“People have been attacking our bodies, our integrity, this entire time, and so today, after the bill has now been finalized, we get that breath point. But we know that this is just, take a breath, and we’ll do it again in January,” Lidow said.
Some of the State House’s most ardent abortion opponents have pledged to introduce new bills to outlaw the procedure when the next legislative session begins in January.
But the question will be if enough conservative lawmakers have the desire to take it up, with many exhausted and frustrated by the end of the fruitless special session this week.
While the House will gain more Republican members after Tuesday’s election, potentially pumping new energy into the push, the makeup of the Senate will stay the same, as senators were not up for re-election and won’t be in until 2024.
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