South Carolina Bill Allowing Charges for Doctors Who Perform Abortions Sent to Committee

A pair of bills that would add to South Carolina's strict abortion restrictions advanced through a subcommittee in the state Senate Wednesday. One of those bills would allow for criminal charges against doctors who perform the procedures, while the second bill would require doctors to inform patients undergoing drug-induced abortions of a controversial treatment to reverse the process of the abortion, The Associated Press reported.

The subcommittee heard testimony from both supporters and opponents of the bills before passing them by a 4-2 vote, meaning the legislation will now be heard by the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee and potentially amended before being advanced to the full Senate or voted down, according to The Post and Courier.

Senate Bill 988 would amend state law to define that fetal life begins at conception, and allow for doctors who perform abortions to face charges similar to murder, the AP reported. The bill allows for exceptions—such as if it is determined that the mother's life is endangered by carrying the pregnancy to term, or if the egg was fertilized outside the womb.

Lawmakers in the subcommittee said they would consider amending the law to include exceptions for pregnancies that begin due to instances of rape or incest.

South Carolina Abortion Restriction Bills Supreme Court
South Carolina senators and staff listen during a meeting of a subcommittee of the South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs committee in Columbia, S.C., on Wednesday. The group of state lawmakers advanced two proposals Wednesday regarding the state's abortion laws. Michelle Liu/Associated Press

If it makes its way through the rest of the legislative process, South Carolina would join the list of states with "trigger laws."

The trigger, in this case, means the law would go into effect if the guaranteed right of access to an abortion afforded by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned partially or entirely by the Supreme Court in the Mississippi abortion case that it is set to decide on by this summer, per WPDE-TV.

South Carolina previously passed a law banning abortions after six weeks, when the beginnings of cardiac activity can be detected in many pregnancies, which the AP reported that medical experts say is not real cardiac activity but an "initial flutter of electric activity within the cells of an embryo."

That law is currently on hold because of a court-issued injunction, halting it from being enforced until the Supreme Court's ruling later this year. However, a hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the lawsuit the reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood brought against South Carolina to determine whether the law should go into effect, according to The Post and Courier.

Much of the testimony in the Wednesday hearing was over Senate Bill 907, which would require doctors to inform patients undergoing a two-pill medically induced abortion of a controversial process that could stop the process of an abortion.

Supporters said it provides an alternative to women who change their minds about abortion, while opponents said it is a medically unproven process that could endanger the health of the mother while forcing doctors to tell patients about medical information they may not agree with or believe is false.

"I've never had any outside entity require I say specific things I know to be untrue," Dr. Carol Allen, an OBGYN in South Carolina since 2001, said in her testimony, per The Post and Courier. "That has never been an issue...I take this very seriously, and patient education is tantamount to understanding what their choices are and what is happening with their bodies."