By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life
COLUMBIA, S.C. (Wednesday, November 9, 2022) In a bizarre twist of events Wednesday, the Republican-controlled South Carolina Senate defeated the Human Life Protection Act by one vote cast by the Republican Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, who earlier in the day voted for the life-saving law.
The bill, H 5399, needed 24 votes to pass, but instead it was shut down by a 23-21 vote, including seven Republicans, leaving the lives of more than 6,000 unborn children at risk of death by abortion every year in the Palmetto state. Massey said he voted for the bill in the Conference Committee he chaired to give all the Senators a chance to vote, but he voted against the conference report on the floor of the Senate. Massey criticized the bill because he said the definition of rape did not conform to the state’s criminal sexual assault laws.
“It is very disappointing that a small number of Senate Republicans joined a solid block of pro-abortion Democrats to defeat a historic pro-life bill that would have stopped the deaths of 98 percent of unborn children as the result of abortion on demand,” said South Carolina Citizens for Life President Lisa Van Riper. “This was a reasonable bill that restored legal protection to the unborn children with the exceptions of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.” The seven Republicans were Senators Massey, Katrina Shealy (Lexington), Sandy Senn (Charleston), Penry Gustafson (Kershaw), Greg Hembree (Horry), Tom Davis (Beaufort), and Tom Young (Aiken).
The Human Life Protection Act passed the South Carolina House of Representatives but was truncated into a six-week abortion ban in the Senate. The House refused to agree with the Senate version, so the bill ended up in a conference committee made up of three House members, Representative John McCravy, R-Greenwood, Representative Tommy Pope, R-York, and Spencer Wetmore, D-Charleston; and three senators, Senator Massey, the committee chairman, Senator Richard Cash, R-Anderson, and Senator Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton.
The committee blended the House bill with the senate amendment for a compromise report that passed the Conference Committee 4-2 Wednesday morning, shortly before the Senate met at 11 a.m. Voting in favor of the conference report were Senators Massey and Cash and Representatives Pope and McCravy. The two pro-abortion Democrats (Wetmore and Matthews) voted against the report.
South Carolina Citizens for Life strongly urged the Senate Republican Caucus to support the Conference Committee Report. In a letter to Majority Leader Massey and members of the Senate Republican Caucus, Mrs. Van Riper said, “We strongly urge the Senate Republican Caucus to be true to its pro-life party platform and to vote for the Conference Committee report on H. 5399…If 6,000 children died of any other single cause in our state, you would do whatever it takes to stop the atrocity. As always, South Carolina Citizens for Life reserves the right to score the votes on legislation that protects the most vulnerable members of our human family.”
During the debate in the Senate, Senator Cash told his colleagues that 15 babies die every day in South Carolina’s abortion businesses. “If 15 school-aged children were gunned down every day, what would be the response of the General Assembly?” he asked. Speaking specifically to the Senate Republicans, Cash reminded them that the right to life is the first principle of the South Carolina Republican Party Platform. Addressing concerns that the Human Life Protection Act would not withstand court scrutiny, Cash said “the [United States] Supreme Court decided abortion is not in the Constitution.” He was referencing the June 24, 2022, U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the issue back to the states to decide. “We are the branch of government that writes the laws,” he said. “It is our job to legislate.”
Mrs. Van Riper thanked the South Carolina House members who overwhelmingly supported the Human Life Protection Act, and the majority of the Republican in the SC Senate “for their efforts to work to secure the passage of the bill.”
Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, issued the following statement: “For the third consecutive time, the Senate has failed to find sufficient votes to advance the cause of life in South Carolina. Complaints about additional conference committee meetings or other parliamentary discussions are a flimsy, disgraceful smoke screen for the Senate’s inability to pass meaningful pro-life legislation. The House did the work we were asked to do on this issue. The Senate did not.”