COLUMBIA — Supporters of a bill that would ban almost all abortions in South Carolina want some leaders in the South Carolina Senate to know they won't let the proposal quietly die.
Hundreds of them packed a Statehouse lobby Wednesday to call for a vote on the bill whose only likely obstacle to becoming law is passing a two-thirds procedural vote in the Senate. There are enough Democrats and Republicans from less conservative districts to keep blocking the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey has said several times before the 2020 legislative session started this week that Republicans don't have the votes and he sees no need to halt debate on other issues like tax reform, education or selling state-owned utility Santee Cooper for several days for a filibuster that according to his vote counting math can't be beat.
That's what happened in 2018 to a similar abortion ban bill. Massey supports the stricter abortion rules, but said he needs to consider the chances of it passing.
“Y’all saw that movie two years ago,” the Republican from Edgefield said. “I was a player in that movie. I did not like that.”
The “Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act” would make make almost all abortions illegal once fetal cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks after conception. Several similarly conservative states have passed similar bills, but they are all tied up in court.
But political considerations didn't matter to the people at the rally, who were joined by Gov. Henry McMaster, again saying he will sign the bill as soon as he can. It easily passed the House last year.
“If you can't protect the dignity and life of all the citizens of South Carolina, I'm not sure your tax code is going to matter,” said South Carolina Citizens for Life President Lisa Van Riper.
Opponents of the bill said it is not constitutional and South Carolina would waste money in court fighting it. They also said most women don't realize they are pregnant before a heartbeat is detected.
Similar bills have passed in recent years in Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio. Missouri approved a ban on abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy and Alabama lawmakers simply outlawed all abortions. All of them remain tied up in courts.
The 2020 elections are part of the political calculations too. All 46 senators and 124 House members are up for reelection. The Republican and Democratic primaries are in June with filing for the seats in March.
Supporters of the abortion bill said they can find conservative candidates who will promise to bring the bill to a vote to run against reluctant Republicans.
“A lot of South Carolina will know who they are,” Van Riper said.
McMaster only spoke briefly after an enthusiastic reception and chants of “we choose life” rang around the lobby after he spoke.
The governor said all rights in American government are only protected when life is considered sacred.
“It is the right of life that is foundational,” McMaster said.