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SC House members pass fetal heartbeat bill; One vote left before it goes to governor

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 5:59 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - South Carolina House members voted to pass a fetal heartbeat bill that will ban most abortions in the state.

The House on Wednesday voted 79-35 in favor of the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act.”

The measure faces a final procedural vote Thursday that likely won’t change the outcome and then goes to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Henry McMaster called it “a great step forward” for South Carolina.

Advocacy groups against this bill say they plan to sue the state to stop the bill from being enacted.

“But all this is doing is going to result in a lot of money, of taxpayer money spent, a lot of heartache, and probably a lot of dead women,” Melissa Anne Cunningham-Sereque, who opposes the bill, said.

Supporters of the bill, however, say they are in this to win.

“We’ve been to court before,” SC Citizens for Life Executive Director Holly Gatling said. “We’ve lost one time and we’ve won one time. We have a different makeup of the court now. We have jurisdictions with different opinions and that’s when the Supreme Court usually takes up a pro-life issue.”

States that have passed similar bills include Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri.

None of those laws are the current law in those states and many of those states also want their cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court as well.

Legal experts say trying to predict what the Supreme Court will decide on abortion is nearly impossible, especially with new members on the bench. So the journey for this legislation is far from over.

Before the vote, a House member requested the House invoke a rule to determine which members were not present without leave and require the House’s Sergeant at Arms, with the help of the state Highway Patrol, to retrieve those members ahead of the vote.

Earlier in the day, Democratic House members walked out of the chamber to protest the bill.

The text of the bill was then read out loud to the House members before the vote.

SC FETAL HEARTBEAT BILL PROTEST

LIVE NOW: State Democratic House members have walked out in protest over the state's Fetal Heartbeat Bill which would ban nearly all abortions in the state. MORE>> https://bit.ly/3ppu3kh

Posted by Live 5 News on Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The bill would ban most abortions in South Carolina because it stipulates that abortions would not be allowed after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That usually happens around six to eight weeks after conception.

Some Democrats argue that is too soon because some women might not yet realize they are pregnant that early.

Abortion would still be allowed in the following instances:

  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Fetal anomaly
  • Carrying the baby would harm the mother’s life.

But the bill would require doctors to provide the sheriff office with the patient’s contact info within 24 hours if an abortion is performed on a woman who was pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

McMaster has promised numerous times in news conferences and formal speeches to sign it as soon as possible.

Pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are expected to immediately file a lawsuit claiming the law is unconstitutional. It is expected that any litigation surrounding the law would prevent it from immediately taking effect.

The proposal passed the Senate on Jan. 28.

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