Action Alert Update on H5399
On Tuesday, September 27, the South Carolina House of Representatives will convene to consider changes the Senate made to H5399. H5399, as passed by the House, would ban abortion beginning at conception with the following exceptions:
Life of the mother – as described in detail in content of the bill
Rape – up to 12 weeks with a local law enforcement reporting requirement and DNA collection.
Incest – see above
The Senate debated the bill for two days. The votes were there (24 to 20) to pass a version of H5399 (as amended by Sen. Shane Massey) that included all of the elements in the House version with the addition of an exception for a fatal fetal anomaly when two doctors agree the baby could not live outside the mother’s womb. However, Sen. Tom Davis filibustered the bill and he was joined by 5 more Republican Senators leaving the Senate 2 votes short of ending the filibuster and passing the bill.
The second amended version of the bill offered by Senator Massey was a strike and insert version that replaced the language of H5399 with the language from the 2021 Heartbeat Bill. This bill contained corrected language that would make it less likely to be struck down by the South Carolina Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood sued on the grounds the Heartbeat bill contained confusing language and that the South Carolina Constitution guarantees a woman’s right to privacy. While H5399 was being crafted and debated, the Court enjoined the current Fetal Heartbeat Law and they will consider its constitutionality on October 19.
The bill also contained the original exceptions included in H5399 plus an exception for a fatal (as certified by two doctors) fetal anomaly. It banned all state funding of Planned Parenthood and it would prohibit state employees from using their insurance to pay for an abortion. This bill passed the Senate and was sent back to the House.
Since the Senate amended the House version, the House must vote to concur (agree to the Senate version of the bill) or non-concur, and agree to send conferees to a conference between the House and Senate to work out differences between the two bills. The House and Senate would then have vote again to pass whatever version comes out of the Conference Committee.
So…there are three possible outcomes for H5399:
1. The House votes to concur with the Senate passed version and the bill goes to the Governor for his signature. The Governor has pledged to sign whatever the Legislature passes.
2. The House votes to non-concur and selects members for the Conference Committee. The Senate then selects Conferees and the Conference Committee works out a compromise that must then pass both the House and the Senate.
3. The House votes to non-concur, the Senate refuses to send members to a Conference Committee and the bill dies.
At the time of this writing, all reports coming from the House indicate when the House reconvenes on September 27, it is more likely than not that they will vote immediately to non-concur. They will then select members to represent the House in the Conference Committee. However, reports coming from the Senate indicate it is more likely than not the Senate will not reconvene or send members to the Conference Committee. If this happens, the bill will die.
Legal analysts are divided over whether or not the SC Supreme Court will uphold or overturn the Heartbeat Law as passed in 2021. Those who are commenting say it is more likely than not that the current Heartbeat bill, without the corrected language, will be overturned. If it is overturned and the version of the Heartbeat bill that just passed the Senate and will be debated in the House next week fails, we will be back to abortion being legal up to 21 weeks (the Pain Capable Law).
Please pray that whatever the House and Senate do from this point on, they find a way to work together and pass a law that will protect life in the womb. Please contact your state representative and your state senator and ask them do whatever it takes to protect the lives of preborn babies in South Carolina. It is unthinkable that the year Roe v. Wade is overturned, South Carolina could fail to pass a bill protecting life. Right now, abortions in South Carolina are up between 50 and 60 percent because the Georgia Heartbeat Law is in effect and people coming from Georgia to South Carolina to get an abortion. The Legislature must find their way to a path of working together that protects life from the moment of conception, and keeps South Carolina from becoming a destination state for abortions. Find your Senator and House member here: www.scstatehouse.gov.
He must increase, I must decrease
Dr. Tony Beam
Director of the Office of Public Policy