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SC Senate adds an exception for rape and incest to Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 11:42 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina state senators added an exception for rape or incest Tuesday to the Fetal Heartbeat Bill” quickly moving through the State House.

The bill bans abortions after six to eight weeks. During this period, advocates for the legislation say a fetal heartbeat can be detected. If a doctor were to perform an abortion after that timeframe in a case that wasn’t done to save the mother’s life or in a situation where the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, the doctor could face a $10,000 fine, two years in jail, or both.

The amendment added to the bill also included a section requiring doctors to alert local law enforcement when performing an abortion on a patient who is pregnant because of rape or incest. Supporters of the amendment say this will allow for more transparency and accountability to the process.

The amendment passed by a voice vote and came after a heated first day of debate on the Senate floor.

Sen. Richard Cash (R-Anderson) and Sen. Sandy Senn(R-Charleston) went back and forth over the role that faith was playing in the day’s debate.

Senn addressed Cash directly and stated, “Do you know we are not in the church? We are in the South Carolina Senate where there is a separation between church and state?”

Cash responded by saying, “I’m not required to check my beliefs at the door.”

Senn ended the exchange by saying, “I wanted to make sure we are clear. I am a colleague in the Senate. I am not a member of your flock.”

Senn had originally told her constituents she would not vote in favor of the Fetal Heartbeat Bill without this exception.

However, while the debate was raging on the Senate floor, one floor down, Lt. Gov. Pam Evette (R-South Carolina) was continuing to pay close attention to the process.

Evette is a strong supporter of the bill and an advocate for pro-life causes. She says she is hearing from constituents who are excited this is one of the first major pieces of legislation being debated on the Senate floor this session.

“If you believe like I do that this is about human life, what can be more important than this being the first that gets talked about in the new legislative season,” Evette said.

Opponents of the bill believe the Senate should have focused on other issues like fighting COVID-19 instead of debating this piece of legislation.

“We are in full crisis mode and to spend this kind of time debating an abortion bill is ridiculous and tone deaf to the needs of people across South Carolina,” Sen. Mia McLeod (D-Richland) said.

McLeod and Evette are two strong supporters of their party’s fight for and against abortion legislation.

Evette supported the bill without the exception for rape or incest.

“I think, you know, it’s up until the point of heartbeat. It’s already taking that into account. There is a period of time in there the bill is already allowing for. And so, I think it will be a debate, but I think if you believe what I believe when life starts, there’s really nothing to debate,” Evette said before the amendment was added.

McLeod said the bill still shouldn’t pass even with this latest addition.

“I don’t think there are any amendments that can make this bill better. As my colleague and sister senator said, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. This is a bad bill. It’s bad for women and girls. It’s bad for South Carolina,” she said.

When asked whether the State House should be involved in abortion laws, both women shared very different views.

“The government is here to protect life. I think we talk about how this is a medical issue. But we never seem to talk a lot about mental health and how it affects women’s mental health going forward,” Evette said.

Meanwhile, McLeod said it was wrong for a party that supports individual freedoms to ask for government intervention when it comes to abortions.

“With gun rights and vaccinations and statewide mask mandates, they don’t want the government to trample on their rights, but that is exactly what they are doing to women and girls in South Carolina today,” McLeod said.

What the two agreed on was where their motivations for this fight come from: their experience as women and mothers.

“I’m a mom and a woman first and it’s not just personal for me. It’s personal for every woman in this state,” McLeod said.

Evette echoed the same sentiment, but with a different conclusion.

“For me, I’m a mom, first and foremost, and I think life is sacred and I think it begins at the moment of conception and I think I share that belief with a number of South Carolinians,” she said.

After the Senate gavels in Wednesday at 1 PM, they will likely continue the debate and propose additional amendments to the bill. It is possible the final vote on the bill will happen before the end of the week.

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