A view of the S.C. Senate chamber

The South Carolina Senate passed a new abortion ban Thursday, claiming that several clarifications of the bill’s language and repeals of conflicting laws will satisfy a majority on the S.C. Supreme Court, now an all-male bench.  Earlier this year, the court overturned a 2021 ban based on the state constitution’s right to privacy. But that opinion was written by Justice Kaye Hearn, who will be replaced by more conservative incoming Justice Gary Hill, who was elected Wednesday. 

The revised Senate bill threw out a provision dating to 1974 that allows women to be charged and sent to prison for up to two years for buying abortion-inducing drugs on the black market or otherwise arranging an abortion at home, according to one media outlet. The measure also includes exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal anomaly, and the patient’s life and health up to 12 weeks.

However, differences with stricter proposals in the House could derail the effort to take away a woman’s right to choose once again.  House Republicans have insisted they will accept nothing less than a ban at conception and are expected to approve their latest attempt to ban nearly all abortions next week, which would then be sent to the Senate. The competing bills could result in another stalemate like the one that scuttled last year’s effort.

In other news this week:

More testimony – plus bomb threat – during Murdaugh trial.  More than 200 jurors, witnesses and attendees of the double murder trial of disbarred lawyer Alex Murdaugh left the Colleton County Courthouse Wednesday after a bomb threat. It turned out to be a hoax. The 2.5-hour delay was the latest twist in a sensational trial being viewed across the world. This week, the trial featured prosecution witnesses describing forensic, digital and financial evidence.

Palmetto flag bill returns to the SenateAfter a bill to codify an official state flag design died on the Senate floor last session the Senate’s Family and Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously sent a rekindled flag bill to the Senate floor.

Bill asking voters about taxpayer dollars to private schools advances to House. South Carolina voters could be asked in 2024 whether taxpayer dollars should flow directly to private schools. The measure would put the question on November 2024 ballots.

S.C. House approves bill allowing parents to sue over suspicions of racist lessons. Democrats argued against the measure, as bullying teachers into whitewashing the ugly parts of the state and nation’s history, while Republicans countered the bill is designed to ensure students are given facts instead of opinion while learning the past’s entire scope.

Online racetrack betting bill out of the gate in S.C. Statehouse. A bipartisan Statehouse bill called the S.C. Equine Advancement Act would legalize a limited form of online gambling on horse races.

McMaster tabs new Veterans’ Affairs director. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday nominated retired Maj. Gen. Todd McCaffrey to head one of the state’s newest cabinet agencies.

S.C. Republicans to appeal redistricting case to U.S. Supreme CourtState justices ruled in early January that the boundaries of the First Congressional District in the Lowcountry passed by the Republican-dominated state Legislature were unconstitutional as a discriminatory racial gerrymander. Now, S.C. Republican lawmakers plan to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid redrawing the map.

U.S. Senate confirms Benjamin to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Senate in a bipartisan vote elected S.C. Circuit Court Judge Andrea Benjamin to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She will become the second woman of color to serve on the Richmond, Va. court.

S.C. DHEC reports 5,463 new cases, 58 deaths for the week ending Feb. 4. For the week ending Feb. 4, state officials reported 58 people died from Covid-19 — 10 more deaths than the previous week. In this period, 5,463 new cases were reported — 164 fewer than the previous reporting period. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) this month is drafting a legally binding treaty centered on making global access to vaccines, drugs and diagnostics more equitable in the event of another pandemic.

Biden delivers first State of the Union speech to divided government. In his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden celebrated economic gains and appealed for bipartisan unity despite heckles from Republicans.

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