© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters gather inside the South Carolina House as members debate a new near-total ban on abortion with no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest at the state legislature in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S. August 30, 2022. REUTE

By Sharon Bernstein and Julia Harte

(Reuters) -South Carolina lawmakers on Tuesday passed a ban on most abortions after fetal cardiac activity begins, around six weeks.

The hotly contested bill, which Republican Governor Henry McMaster is expected to sign, passed mostly along party lines, with the notable exception of the state senate’s five women members, who opposed it.

The Republican-backed bill, which bans most abortions before many women know they are pregnant, is a revised version of an earlier measure that the state Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. It allows abortions up to 12 weeks in cases of rape and incest, and also provides an exception for medical emergencies.

“We’ll see you in court,” Planned Parenthood South Atlantic posted on Twitter moments after Tuesday’s vote by the South Carolina state senate.

But it was not immediately clear whether the new ban would be overturned like the prior one, because the state Supreme Court now has a new member who is more conservative.

Abortions are currently allowed in South Carolina through the first 22 weeks of pregnancy, one of the most permissive abortion laws in the region.

Out-of-state abortion seekers have sought care in South Carolina since a number of other states across the U.S. South greatly restricted abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022 eliminated a nearly 50-year-old federal right to abortion by overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.

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