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'Equal Protection at Conception' Act would ban almost all abortions in South Carolina

A new bill introduced Tuesday goes further than the Fetal Heartbeat Act, banning most abortions at any stage, unless the mother's life is at risk.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new bill introduced in the South Carolina Senate seeks to ban abortions with few exceptions, going even further than the new Fetal Heartbeat Act that took effect Monday. 

The "Equal Protection at Conception - No Exceptions" act would outlaw abortions at any stage of pregnancy unless the mother's life is at risk. It was introduced by Sen. Richard Cash of Anderson County, as some state lawmakers consider even stricter limits on abortion in South Carolina. 

Protesters flooded the State House Tuesday to voice their opposition to the Fetal Heartbeat Act, which outlaws most abortions to six weeks, before most women even realize they're pregnant. 

South Carolina previously allowed abortions from 20 weeks of pregnancy before the law, previously blocked by a federal court, took effect Monday. The law does allow exceptions due to rape and incest if the fetus is less than 20 weeks along, and in cases to save the mother's life. 

RELATED: Who voted for, against South Carolina's Fetal Heartbeat Act?

The protest, which began at 11:30 a.m., quickly moved into the State House where groups gathered outside the Senate and House chambers. Most of the people inside were against the Fetal Heartbeat Act, but there was a group of counter-protesters in support of the measure. 

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The Fetal Heartbeat Act requires South Carolina doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus. The measure fines doctors $10,000 for either failing to check if there's a heartbeat or performing a scan but proceeding anyway. Doctors would also face two years in prison on the felony charge. The bill does not mention any penalties for women who seek abortions.

While the new law is stricter than what was allowed under Roe v. Wade, state legislators are considering more restrictions. 

Credit: WCNC Charlotte

"We did as much as we could under the law at the time," Rep. Tommy Pope said. "Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, there clearly would be opportunities to do more."

It's unclear if a new bill would allow exemptions for cases of rape and incest.

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