Republican filibuster could kill S. Carolina abortion ban


COLUMBIA, S.C. — The leader of the South Carolina Senate on Thursday conceded that a bill to ban almost all abortions in South Carolina may not pass despite significant Republican support.

The roadblock to enacting the measure, which would have included exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest up to 12 weeks after conception, came when Republican Sen. Tom Davis launched a filibuster.

Davis opposes a blanket ban on abortions in South Carolina and said he would argue against the bill until the 46-member Senate mustered the 26 votes required to end the filibuster. That appeared unlikely to happen, as only after 24 senators voted for an amended bill that included exceptions for pregnancies cause by rape or incest up to 12 weeks after conception. Twenty senators were opposed and two were absent.

After a recess to work through their options, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey conceded the abortion ban likely can’t pass, although a vote to end debate had not been taken.

”This is a math question, you have to have the votes to pass it – and we do not,” Massey said.

Davis said he promised his daughters he would not vote to make South Carolina’s current six-week abortion ban stricter because women have rights, too.

“The moment we become pregnant we lost all control over what goes on with our bodies,” Davis said, recalling what his daughters told him. “I’m here to tell you I’m not going to let it happen.”

Davis, a senator since 2009 who was once chief of staff for former Gov. Mark Sanford, was joined by the three Republican women in the Senate, a fifth Republican senator and all the chamber’s Democrats.

South Carolina’s six-week ban is currently suspended as the state Supreme Court reviews whether it violates privacy rights. In the meantime, the state’s 2016 ban on abortions 20 weeks after conception is in effect.

Republicans worked for two days to get the exceptions back into the bill. South Carolina’s General Assembly is meeting in a special session to try to join more than a dozen other states with abortion bans.

Most of them came through so-called trigger laws designed to outlaw most abortions when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the constitutional right to end a pregnancy in June. Indiana’s Legislature passed a new ban last month that has not taken effect,

The House passed the bill with similar rape or incest exceptions last month, also requiring the doctor to tell the woman the rape would be reported to police before the abortion and file that report within 24 hours with the woman’s name and contact information. There are also exceptions to allow an abortion when a mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy.

The Senate this week added an additional exception allowing abortions if a doctor determines a fetus cannot live outside the womb, meaning if senators pass the bill, it returns to the House.

The debate started Wednesday with the three Republican women in the South Carolina Senate speaking back-to-back, saying they can’t support the bill unless the rape or incest exceptions are restored.

Sen. Katrina Shealy said the 41 men in the Senate would be better off listening to their wives, daughters, mothers, granddaughters and looking at the faces of the girls in Sunday School classes at their churches.

“You want to believe that God is wanting you to push a bill through with no exceptions that kill mothers and ruins the lives of children — lets mothers bring home babies to bury them — then I think you’re miscommunicating with God. Or maybe you aren’t communicating with Him at all,” Shealy said before senators added a proposal allowing abortions if a fetus cannot survive outside the womb.

Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey helped broker the compromise among Republicans that returned the exceptions to the bill. He pointed out state health officials recorded about 3,000 abortions in 2021 within the first six weeks of a pregnancy while the six-week ban was under a federal court review lifted when Roe v. Wade was overturned.

“Heartbeat is great, but this I think is better,” Massey said. ”I don’t think abortion should be used as birth control.”

Republican Sen. Sandy Senn, who didn’t vote for the six-week ban in 2021, said a total ban is an invasion of the privacy of every woman in the state.

“If what is going on in my vagina isn’t an unreasonable invasion of privacy for this legislature to get involved in, I don’t know what is,” Senn said.


Associated Press writer James Pollard contributed to this report.


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