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SC House Backs Heartbeat Bill          04/25 06:26

   The South Carolina House gave near final approval to a bill Wednesday that 
would ban almost all abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, but the 
measure may have little chance of clearing the Senate.

   COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- The South Carolina House gave near final approval to 
a bill Wednesday that would ban almost all abortions once a fetal heartbeat can 
be detected, but the measure may have little chance of clearing the Senate.

   The House voted 70-31 to give the bill second reading after more than five 
hours of debate. One last routine vote could take place as early as Thursday 
before the bill heads to the Senate.

   Other legislatures in Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia have passed fetal heartbeat 
abortion bills this year. But in South Carolina, even if the bill passes the 
House, it would need a two-thirds vote from the less conservative Senate 
because it had missed a legislative deadline. And time was running short, with 
only seven working days remaining in the legislative session after Wednesday.

   Supporters called for final House and Senate passage, saying all life should 
be considered sacred once a heartbeat can be detected.

   But much of Wednesday's debate arose from opposition by Democratic 
lawmakers, who questioned the motives of debating a bill that would likely face 
an immediate legal challenge and be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

   Democratic Rep. David Mack said lawmakers take up proposed abortion 
restrictions year after year and need to refrain from passing laws concerning 
women's bodies.

   "This waste of time is just very sickening to me," the North Charleston 
lawmaker said.

   The bill, drafted by Republican Rep. John McCravy, would require medical 
professionals to test for a detectable heartbeat before any abortion is 

   McCravy said that if a heartbeat is detected, the bill would require the 
medical professional to ask the mother if she would like to hear the heartbeat 
and then advise the woman of the chances of her successfully carrying the 
pregnancy to full term.

   A heartbeat typically can be detected around the sixth week of pregnancy, so 
early that many women are sometimes unaware they are pregnant.

   "We're forcing women from across the state of South Carolina to fight the 
issue of time," Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg said.

   Bamberg proposed a number of amendments to filibuster the legislation, a 
similar strategy he took during a contentious debate during a House committee 
meeting earlier this month. They all have failed. The Bamberg Democrat's 
proposals included allowing registered nurses, physician assistance and 
telemedicine providers to perform abortions. Other provisions would have 
created a fund to pay for women to travel outside of South Carolina to get an 
abortion, as well as a fund for physicians to be trained on using the 
ultrasound to detect the heartbeat.

   "We can be so comfortable here in Columbia dictating what women can and 
cannot do with their bodies and there's never a discussion of how this can 
impact their pocketbook or checkbook," Bamberg said.

   Bamberg ultimately withdrew all his proposed amendments, saying he did so 
out of respect to the leadership and their colleagues after what they deemed 
inevitable House approval of the measure.

   "It's frustrating to come to Columbia every year and every single year we 
have to take up something regarding abortion," Bamberg said. "Let's make sure 
we're doing every single thing possible to invest in, fight for the children 
that are already here, that are suffering or sick and dying, and that's all I 
ask for the body."

   The only amendment to pass after several hours of debate allowed for 
exemptions to the ban in cases of rape or incest, proposed by Republican Rep. 
Nancy Mace of Charleston. McCravy opposed that amendment to his bill.

   "The question is whether another life should be taken because of a bad act," 
McCravy told fellow lawmakers. "Vote your conscious on this amendment."

   While Democratic lawmakers supported expanding the exceptions, they 
criticized language in the proposal that would require physicians to use their 
judgment to determine whether it was their "belief" that the pregnancy was the 
result of rape or incest. They said they wondered why a doctor would not trust 
a woman about that kind of trauma.

   "I apologize to all the women in South Carolina who have been raped, who 
have been subjected to incest," Democrat John King of Rock Hill said. He 
protested what he called the actions of "the men who sit in these chambers here 
and across the hall who feel it is in our interest to make decisions for the 
women of South Carolina and especially for women who have been raped or subject 
to incest." 


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