COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — Since this summer, the Republican-dominated South Carolina state legislature has been hearing testimony, debating and trying to tighten state restrictions on abortion.
But the House of Representatives and Senate remain locked in an impasse over their two different versions of the legislation, and their time is running out to pass a bill before they are forced to wait until next year to try again.
A six-member conference committee — made up of three senators and three House members, with two male Republicans and one female Democrat representing each chamber — has until Nov. 13 to find a compromise between versions of the bills. the House and Senate and get it passed by a majority in both houses.
The panel first met on Tuesday for about an hour, and although a few bills were proposed, the committee did not vote on them or reach an agreement to send them to the rest. of the General Assembly.
After the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, the South Carolina House of Representatives banned abortion from conception, with exceptions for the life and health of the mother and victims of sexual assault.
The Senate initially attempted to pass a design ban as well, but failed to garner enough support among Republicans to pass such a restrictive bill.
Senators finally approved legislation that would adjust South Carolina’s current six-week abortion ban, which the state Supreme Court temporarily blocked from enforcing in August, as judges now weigh a decision on a challenge to the constitutionality of the law.
The Senate bill also fixed the language of the existing six-week ban that led the Supreme Court to issue the temporary injunction.
Neither house accepted the other’s bill, so it was sent to the six-member conference committee that met on Tuesday to find a compromise.
To do this and send the legislation to the full General Assembly, at least two members from each chamber must approve it.
The two Democrats on the panel, Rep. Spencer Wetmore of Charleston County and Senator Margie Bright Matthews of Colleton County, are unlikely to vote in favor of a bill that further restricts abortions, so the four Republicans should most likely be on board signing a compromise.
“I don’t think there’s an amount of lipstick on the pig. I think it’s a cruel, restrictive bill, and I don’t think there’s an amount of change and modification and softening that would make it — I think we risk driving doctors out of the ‘State and not providing the health care that women need, and I think every time you bring criminal charges and licensing and potentially civil and statutory fines over a doctor’s head, we’re decreasing women’s health care in this state, so I don’t think there’s an amount of amendments that would make me support that,” Wetmore said.
Two Republicans, Rep. John McCravy of Greenwood County and Senator Richard Cash of Anderson County, have proposed bills to ban abortion-of-conception, using the House version as a basis, but including exceptions and some elements of the less restrictive Senate bill.
McCravy told reporters after the meeting that he was unlikely to vote for a less restrictive bill based on the Senate version, banning abortion after about six weeks, to put in place a new legislation on time and break the deadlock.
“Probably not,” McCravy said. “That’s the reason we came back after Roe v. Wade was not to retake the Heartbeat Bill but to decide what the law would be in South Carolina for our people and what our state wants to do.
But Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey repeatedly said at Tuesday’s meeting that not enough Republicans would vote for this more restrictive bill to pass it in the Senate.
“Clearly the Senate base is the only thing that has a chance of getting votes in the Senate, and I think that’s very slim,” Massey said. “So if the goal is to get something through, I think it has to be very close to the Senate version. But if that’s not the point, then I guess it doesn’t matter what you release, does it? »
McCravy — who chaired the ad hoc House committee that took testimony and laid the groundwork for this chamber’s abortion legislation this summer — responded to repeated comments from Massey that he was unwilling to abandon the adoption of a design ban at this stage.
“Well, there was no way the 1969 Mets would win the World Series either,” McCravy said. “So you don’t know what’s going to happen until you get the actual vote.”
In the end, the conference committee did not vote on Cash or McCravy’s bills, with some members saying they wanted more time to read them after only receiving the legislation earlier in the day. .
The committee plans to meet again on Nov. 9, the day after election day, to give another chance to hammer out a compromise.
But even if they reach a deal, that basically leaves them the rest of Wednesday and Thursday, before the Veterans Day holiday on Friday and the deadline on Sunday, to get it approved by a majority vote in both chambers of the General Assembly.
If they miss that deadline, lawmakers will have to wait until the start of the new legislative session in January to reintroduce abortion legislation.
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. legislators GOP remain stuck in a deadlock on of the strict restrictions matter abortion