Heartbeat abortion ban may finally pass in South Carolina

Heartbeat abortion ban may finally pass in South Carolina
South Carolina lawmakers are again considering a bill that would ban most abortions in the state. (Source: WCSC/WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - A committee in the South Carolina General Assembly is set to take the first in a series of votes on a fetal heartbeat bill.

The law would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively banning abortions six to seven weeks after conception.

Republicans sound optimistic that this is their year to make the change in the state’s abortion laws.

There are no exceptions for a birth as a result of rape or incest in the bill.

It is moving through the Statehouse pretty quickly, in a matter of weeks, not months.

“The fact that this bill is being taken up is an indication that a substantial part of the party thinks this is a priority,” Beaufort Republican Sen. Tom Davis said.

After more than 100 speakers tell their stories, they committee wil vote on whether they want to move the bill forward. At that point, they could decide to add exemptions or send it on as is.

Democrats say they plan to fight the bill hard and are even hopeful some Republicans will oppose it.

They also want to make the case that they believe the discussion is a waste of time and money.

“It really defies logic in the middle of a pandemic for the State of South Carolina to open its session trying to curtail the rights of women when we should be looking out for the health care and wellbeing of all South Carolinians,” Orangeburg County Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto said.

Democrats say the bill is unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, which said an abortion is legal up until about 24 to 28 weeks.

That could put the state’s law in legal limbo even if Gov. Henry McMaster signs it.

But McMaster signaled to lawmakers during his State of the State Address Wednesday night that he will sign the bill as it is currently written if it makes it to his desk.

“Let this be the year that we further protect the sanctity of life with the heartbeat bill,” he said during the speech. “It’s time to vote. Send me the heartbeat bill and I will immediately sign it into law.”

McMaster has previously said he does believe the bill is constitutional.

The bill has stalled in the Senate before because it needs a two-thirds vote to overcome a procedural hurdle. But Republicans flipped three seats from Democrats in the 2020 election, making the chamber much more conservative.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.