Abortion ban survives marathon objections, but has little chance of becoming law

Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia

COLUMBIA — Although it’s unlikely to become law this year, a bill further limiting South Carolina women’s access to abortion will return to the Senate following more than five hours of resistance on Wednesday from the House Democratic Caucus.

Known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation. That’s when supporters contend fetuses can feel pain, a claim the medical community disputes.

To take a stand against “a radical, extremist bill that doesn’t meet the priorities of our state,” on Wednesday, Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, introduced 37 amendments to the ban. Without breaking for recess, House members — mainly Democrats, led by Reps. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, and Smith — spent the majority of the day passionately and at times, facetiously debating Smith’s amendments. Smith even spoke in opposition to many of his own proposals to extend the debate.

“Our whole point is we ought to be fixing roads, we ought to be educating children, we ought to be bringing jobs to the state,” he said. “Not passing facially unconstitutional, extremist abortion bills.”

The House voted 76-26 Tuesday to strip the bill of exemptions for rape, incest and severe fetal anomalies that were added by the Senate last month. House minority leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, took the floor Wednesday to lambast his colleagues for voting to remove those exceptions.

“It is as bad as a man climbing on top of a child and impregnating her,” he said. “You should be ashamed — every single one of you. That is never OK. She is a victim. She is a child and you need to recognize that.”

With one day left until the session adjourns, it’s unlikely the Senate will take up the abortion ban, according to its prime sponsor Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, as Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, continues filibustering against a proposed state gas tax increase.

Asked about Smith’s slew of amendments, Nanney rolled her eyes.

“We have wasted a lot of time today when there’s a lot of legislation we need to address,” she said.

Reach Deanna Pan at 937-5764.