South Carolina House Approves Abortion Ban From Around Six Weeks: Backs Off Near-Total Ban

The South Carolina House of Representatives has approved a bill that bans most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy. This brought state GOP members closer to ending a protracted disagreement over when access should be restricted.

The proposal must clear the Senate again after the House added several changes.

The House pulled back from a proposal that would almost completely ban abortion at conception after the Senate rejected the measure. The measure would ban abortions from when an ultrasound detects cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before when many women know they are pregnant. The legislation includes exceptions for fatal fetal anomalies, the patient’s health and life, incest, and rape through 12 weeks.

Debate stretched for almost 24 hours, split across two days as lawmakers worked through hundreds of amendments Democrats filed.

The GOP has been searching for an answer to the Supreme Court of South Carolina’s ruling that tossed a similar 2021 law that banned abortion around six weeks. The decision left abortion legal through the first 22 weeks of pregnancy. Republican lawmakers hope a new court makeup and tweaks in the new bill will leave the new measure in place.

Virginia remains an outlier for permissive abortion laws as southern states pass new restrictions

While more states in the South pass new restrictions, Virginia remains a lone outlier in the region for its comparatively permissive laws, which set up the state as a possible destination for women seeking abortions. The state’s solo status raises questions about providers’ capacity to meet demand.

Abortion is severely restricted or banned in much of the South, including throughout pregnancy in Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kentucky. It is allowed only in the first six weeks of pregnancy in Georgia.

Implementing stricter bans across the South would increase Virginia’s role as an abortion access point while creating a “ripple effect” as people travel from out of state to receive the procedure.

Virginia currently allows abortions throughout the first and second trimesters. Women can receive an abortion in the third trimester only after three doctors certify the mother’s mental or physical health is at serious risk.

Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin pushed for a 15-week ban during the legislative session this year; however, it was narrowly defeated by a Democratic majority in the state Senate.

Abortion remains legal through 22 weeks in South Carolina. If it enacts the new restrictions, more patients are expected to seek the procedure in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
An additional challenge to abortion access was considered on Wednesday when a federal appeals court heard arguments on whether the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, a widely-used abortion drug, should be overturned. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel is reviewing a ruling by a federal judge in Texas who ordered a hold on the drug’s approval. The verdict is currently stayed while the appeal is pending.

Attorneys seeking to preserve access to the drug got pushback Wednesday from appellate judges. The ruling is not immediately expected.

In Michigan on Wednesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation prohibiting companies from firing or retaliating against workers for having an abortion.