But actually getting the bill passed looks to be an uphill battle: Democrats have promised to filibuster in order to put off the final vote, and ending a filibuster would require a supermajority vote, which is hard to reach. The year's legislative session ends on May 10.
The upper chamber of the legislature voted to outlaw the majority of abortions 28-10, allowing for exceptions only in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother's life. If passed, the new law "almost certainly would spark a court challenge," according to South Carolina newspaper The State. But that is exactly what the Senate Republicans want, since their eventual goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives women the right to safe, accessible abortions.
"It's designed to give the court an opportunity to revisit Roe v. Wade," Republican Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey told The State.
Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto said that if passed, the proposal would likely ban 97% of the approximately 5,700 abortions performed in South Carolina every year. "It's clearly unconstitutional from my point of view," he told The State.
But Hutto is the one who proposed the ban, as an amendment to a House bill to outlaw "dismemberment" abortion — a rare procedure only used to end late-term pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother. He was acting strategically: Reportedly, he said that the amendment would be a "poison pill" and either stop the bill from passing or get it thrown out in court.
"So, it's a gotcha vote?" Republican Sen. Tom Corbin asked Hutto, according to The Charlotte Observer. Hutto responded: "I'm not going to gotcha behind your back. I'm going to gotcha in your face."
After the Senate had been debating "dismemberment" abortions for two days — complete with gruesome demonstrations — Hutto decided to give Republicans a chance to vote for the bill they really want. “If you want to vote on it, this is your vote," Hutto said, according to The State. "If you want to dance on this one, you can see it on the commercials when you get home for your next election."
During the impassioned two-day debate, Republican Sen. Larry Grooms said, "I wish we could end all abortion. I do, 'cause I believe in life. I believe the most important thing government can do is to protect the life of people, and unborn children are people."
Battles over abortion rights are playing out in several other states. In Iowa, the Republican-controlled legislature passed the so-called "heartbeat bill" earlier this week, which bans abortion at around six weeks of gestation — when most women don't even know they're pregnant. The bill is currently waiting for the signature of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. She is anti-abortion, but hasn't indicated whether or not she'll sign it.
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