COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Lawmakers aiming to further restrict abortions in South Carolina will have to wait until 2023 to get a new law on the books.
Efforts to pass new abortion legislation before the end of a special session stalled Wednesday when the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate couldn’t agree on how far a new law should go.
South Carolina lawmakers have spent the last few months working on H.5399 following the overturn of Roe v Wade. The House of Representatives and Senate passed two different versions of the legislation.
The House’s proposal would have banned abortion at conception with limited exceptions for rape and incest. In September, the Senate rejected that bill opting instead to pass legislation that would have made the state’s six-week ban more strict.
Both chambers, controlled by Republicans, insisted on their version of H.5399. Democrats mostly stayed out of the debate over the last few months, allowing Republicans to fight amongst themselves. State lawmakers who support abortion rights have said the state’s current law or any further restrictions are not good for South Carolinians.
A panel of three House members and three Senators were tasked with coming up with a bill both chambers would agree to. They met Wednesday morning to advance a compromise similar to the House’s version of the bill.
During that meeting, Senate Majority Leader Senator Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) said the bill would fail on the Senate floor like it did in September and October. He said he planned on calling the conference committee back. Representative John McCravy (R-Greenwood), who has advocated for a total abortion ban and chaired the House’s ad-hoc committee on H.5399, said he had to return home and would not be able to attend that second meeting.
About an hour and a half later, senators rejected the conference committee’s proposal on the floor. Following that vote, McCravy and the other two House members assigned to the joint committee did not show up for that second meeting.
On the Senate floor, Senator Massey said, “The reason we’re not going to pass anything is because the House conferees left.”
After the Senate adjourned, House Speaker Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) told reporters the bill was dead. He said the House’s bill held the Republican party’s platform.
Speaker Smith said, “The House’s position is standing up for life with the exceptions we had. That’s where we are and that’s where we’ve been.”
The process for new abortion legislation will have to start all over next year. The Republican majority in the House will grow after they flipped some seats. Speaker Smith said, “I don’t think we’ll have any issues bringing a similar bill that we had forth in our body and pass it at this point.”
The state’s six-week abortion ban is temporarily blocked pending a legal challenge. The state Supreme Court listened to arguments last month. They have not made a ruling just yet.
Right now, abortions are legal up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy in South Carolina.