The vote on a South Carolina bill severely restricting abortion in the state grew heated Wednesday when almost every House Democrat walked out in protest of the extremely controversial legislation.

The bill, which Republicans voted to move forward after wiping out over 100 proposed amendments, would ban doctors from performing an abortion on a patient if they detect a “fetal heartbeat” ― a highly misleading phrase anti-abortion activists have seized on in recent years. Doctors would be required to check for that indicator and would only be allowed to proceed with the abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or it is putting the mother’s life is in danger.

“The Democratic caucus is not going to participate in this farce of a vote about pretend life,” state Rep. Todd Rutherford said before leading nearly all of his 42 Democratic colleagues out of the chamber. His Republican colleagues, he charged, are hypocrites for overlooking real threats to human life during the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing opioid crisis.

“One of the speakers yesterday said 8,000 people in this state have died because of COVID-19. And yet in this very body, we serve with people that believe that the government should not make people wear masks,” Rutherford said. 

The fact that disabled people had to come to the statehouse to make their case for receiving coronavirus vaccinations is like a “modern day Hunger Games,” he added, referencing the dystopian series. 

An outright abortion ban has failed to pass out of the South Carolina Senate for years, but Republicans gained three seats in that chamber in last year’s election and had enough power to push it through for a vote in both chambers. The House Democrats walking out of the vote Wednesday would not have had the power to stop the bill from moving forward in their chamber, which is also controlled by a Republican majority. 

A few Democrats stayed behind, including Rep. Kimberly Johnson. 

“If we’re going to walk out on every cause just because Republicans have the numbers there is no need to drive to Columbia every day,” she said during her turn to speak. 

After a final procedural vote in the House, the legislation will go to Gov. Henry McMaster (R), who is expected to sign it into law. However, the far-reaching legislation will almost certainly be challenged in court and not be able to take effect on schedule. 

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