The South Carolina General Assembly has finished its regular session. Along with partners including the Women's Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), SC United for Justice and Equality, and Planned Parenthood, we fought dozens of bills designed to undermine the constitutional rights of South Carolinians. We may not have been able to defeat every bad bill, but there were important victories, and we will remain vigilant as special sessions approach. Here is a brief wrap-up of our key legislative priorities:
Free Speech and the Freedom to Learn.
Senate Bill 945, which would have violated South Carolinians' rights under the First Amendment by censoring speech and learning in classrooms, was defeated. This censorship proposal, drafted in large part by national conservative think tanks, has been making its way through state legislatures around the country. Thanks to an incredible show of solidarity, all of the numerous attempts at such legislation died in South Carolina. In a session where public education and public educators were under constant attack, this is an important win for students and teachers throughout the state.
Senate Bill 1, a six-week abortion ban, was signed by Governor McMaster and blocked by a federal court due to its violation of Roe v. Wade. While this law is still blocked by the courts, it will go into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court issues its final opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. We're working with our partners, including WREN and Planned Parenthood, to prepare for all possible scenarios. Make no mistake, we will remain in this fight.
Governor McMaster signed House Bill 4608, an anti-transgender student-athlete bill that bans transgender youth from participating on teams with other athletes of the same gender. This dangerous proposal violates both the U.S. Constitution, binding 4th Circuit case law, and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. In addition to the constitutional violations, this law will increase the psychological harms already proven to be suffered by children who are transgender. We will remain in this fight.
House Bill 4776, known as the "Medical Discrimination Act," would allow all medical practitioners and health care institutions to refuse to provide care or perform a procedure that they allege violates their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. This would legalize discrimination against South Carolinians seeking medical care. While this bill has not passed out of the General Assembly, it has not been defeated and is essentially in limbo, and will be debated in a conference during a special session.
Act 165 has been signed by the Governor, and makes it easier to vote early through expanded dates and locations for early voting. The law no longer requires an excuse to vote absentee in-person, and expands early voting options that take effect immediately. Early voting for the June 14 primary begins Tuesday, May 31, and ends on Friday, June 10, with offices open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find Early voting locations for all counties. We thank the League of Women Voters of South Carolina for their hard work and leadership – we're proud to support their efforts as they strive to create equitable access to the ballot in South Carolina.
Without the dedication and expertise of our partners and your support, we could not do this work. Your voice is critical as we continue to fight to protect the Constitutional rights of each and every South Carolinian. We need you to stay in the fight this summer, as we plan for a special session at the Capitol and prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on abortion rights.
Finally, just because the legislative session has ended doesn't mean it's not a good time to contact your elected leaders. Lawmakers need to hear your voice – you can find contact information for your state senator and representative.
ACLU of South Carolina