(CNN) — South Carolina House members approved a controversial bill late Wednesday that would ban most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, after having spent the last two days in contentious debate on the legislation.
Lawmakers had been called back for a special session this week by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster to continue work on Senate Bill 474, known as the “Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” which bans most abortions after early cardiac activity can be detected in a fetus or embryo, which can commonly be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
The bill will now head to the Republican-controlled state Senate, where lawmakers will consider changes made by the House. The Senate passed the initial version of the bill back in February.
Even if approved by the Senate, it remains to be seen whether the law would survive a court challenge. The state Supreme Court earlier this year struck down a similar six-week ban over privacy concerns.
But were the new legislation to go into effect, it would mean that the entire US South, with the exception of Virginia, has moved to significantly curtail abortion rights since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
The state House voted 82-33 to advance the amended bill, with two Democrats joining Republicans in the chamber, but not before debate on the legislation dragged on for hours over multiple days.
Democratic lawmakers had filed more than 1,000 amendments to the legislation and vowed to make fellow legislators consider all of them, while Republicans said they would stay to work on the bill for as long as it took.
“We have no intention of pulling any amendments. We are going to make it hurt if they are going to force this on us,” Democratic state Rep. Beth Bernstein said.
Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday whether the Democrats were “delaying the inevitable” passage of the measure, Bernstein conceded that “unfortunately” they were but that they also sought to raise awareness around it.
“[T]he reason these amendments are being filed is so we can have that voice and so people can understand what we’re doing at the statehouse is we’re effectively banning abortion,” Bernstein said on “The Lead.”
South Carolina passed a similar 6-week abortion ban in 2021, but the state Supreme Court struck it down earlier this year, concluding that the state constitution’s privacy protections require limits on the procedure to allow women sufficient time to end a pregnancy.
Recent efforts to pass further restrictions on abortion also faltered in April when the state Senate failed to pass the “Human Life Protection Act,” which would have banned most abortions in the state, in a 22-21 vote with five women voting against it – including three Republicans. The bill had previously passed in the state House and included exceptions for incidents of rape or incest.
Consideration on South Carolina’s latest abortion bill came as lawmakers in neighboring North Carolina moved on Tuesday to ban most abortions after 12 weeks after the state’s Republican-led General Assembly overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.
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