COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — For the second time, the South Carolina Senate voted against moving forward with a near-total abortion ban bill Tuesday afternoon. Instead, they insisted on their version of the legislation.
H.5399, as passed by Senators in September, would add further restrictions to the state’s six-week abortion ban, also known as the Fetal Heartbeat law. The South Carolina House of Representatives’ version of the bill would ban almost all abortions in the state at conception with limited exceptions.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, Senators voted 17 to 26 to reject reverting H.5399 back to the House’s version. In September, the Senate couldn’t come to an agreement on a near-total ban last month.
Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) said she could not support the House’s bill.
“I think we just rushed to action too soon. Of course, everyone doesn’t agree with me and that’s fine,” Shealy explained. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here to work things out between us. Nobody should be mad at anybody.”
The legislation is now being sent to a joint committee made up of three House members and three Senators. They’re tasked with coming up with a compromise on the bill.
They have a little less than a month to work that out and send the bill to their respective chambers for a vote. The Sine Die resolution passed by lawmakers earlier this year says the special session on abortion cannot run past Nov. 13.
Sen. Richard Cash (R-Anderson) said it will be a stiff challenge to get a full ban passed within the next month.
“I’m not happy about the vote today but I go onto the next thing which is the conference committee,” Cash said. “If that doesn’t achieve the goal then we go onto to the next thing. And then if that doesn’t work, I’ll start again in January.”
No word yet on when that conference committee will meet.
Sen. Margie Bright Matthews (D-Colleton) is one of the six members of the conference committee. She is one of two Democrats. She said the debate in the Senate shows the abortion issues isn’t always a “Republican vs Democrat argument.”
“This has been a cataclysmic event where [Republican Senators] now have to decide whether the government has the okay to be in a women’s doctor office when it comes to reproductive rights,” Matthews said.
Wednesday morning, the state Supreme Court Wednesday will hear oral arguments in a case challenging the state’s currently blocked six-week abortion ban.
Abortion providers claim the ban violates the South Carolina Constitution.
The state argues the right to privacy in the Constitution does not pertain to abortions.