South Carolina House Passes Bill Banning Abortions When Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   |   Steven Ertelt, Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 24, 2019   |   6:45PM   |   Columbia, SC

South Carolina lawmakers moved forward with a bill Wednesday to ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

Following the lead of Georgia and other states, the South Carolina state House passed the bill today on a 70-31 vote.

State House Bill 3020 would require abortionists to test for a fetal heartbeat before every abortion and prohibit abortions if a heartbeat is detected. Exceptions would be allowed for rape, incest and threats to the mother’s life. It also would require abortionists to offer the woman the chance to hear her baby’s heartbeat and see the ultrasound.

An unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable by about six weeks of pregnancy, though new research suggests the heartbeat may begin as early as 18 days after conception. If the bill becomes law and withstands a legal challenge, it could ban almost all abortions in South Carolina.

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The 70 to 31 vote followed more than five hours of heated back-and-forth between supporters and opponents of the bill, a dispute that has become a predictable annual hallmark of South Carolina’s legislative session.

The bill, H.3020, would make it illegal to receive an abortion in South Carolina after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, which occurs after around five to eight weeks in most pregnancies. About two-thirds of abortions in South Carolina are conducted after six weeks of gestation, according to 2017 data from the state’s health department.

Republican supporters of the bill remained undeterred by Democratic efforts to effectively filibuster the debate for hours with a litany of amendment proposals.

“I’d be willing to stay here all night and bring in a cot,” said state Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, the bill’s lead sponsor. “There’s no higher priority than life.”

Because the bill passed the House late in the first year of the legislative session, which is set to end in May, the Senate would need a supermajority two-thirds vote to even bring the bill up for debate on the floor.

But House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, noted that it is a two-year session, meaning the Senate could consider it next year.

“Whether the Senate takes it up this year or next year, every time the House has passed something, we move closer to the goal of protecting life,” said Simrill, who has participated in dozens of abortion debates as a member of the House for more than two decades.

During committee testimony, the committee heard a number of heartbreaking testimonies prior to the vote. One came from a local chaplain who said she deeply regrets aborting her unborn baby.

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“I am one of the 61 million women that have experienced abortion that has traumatically affected my life,” she told the committee.

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A mother, whose daughter had an abortion while in high school, blamed Planned Parenthood for not requiring consent or notifying the parent of the daughter’s decision. She described her daughter’s life now.

“She could never come to grips with the baby that she lost. So she is now incarcerated for felony DUI, a 23 year sentence.”

However, abortion activists argued that the bill would lead to a shortage of doctors in the state. Others claimed women should be allowed to make the decision to abort an unborn baby without government interference, according to the local news reports.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Vicki Ringer warned that they may file a lawsuit to overturn the law if the state passes it.

“If you believe that [U.S. Supreme Court Justices Neil] Gorsuch and [Brett] Kavanaugh will save you on the Supreme Court. That court has already blocked an abortion bill,” Ringer said.

State Rep. John McCravy is leading the effort to pass the heartbeat bill.

“It’s a common-sense bill. If a heart stops beating permanently, the person is dead,” McCravy said when he pre-filed the bill in December. “Common sense should tell us that when a heart is beating, we have a precious human life that should not be terminated.”

About 5,100 unborn babies were aborted in South Carolina in 2017, and most were later than six weeks of pregnancy, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Pro-life Gov. Henry McMaster, who also is in a legal battle to defund the abortion giant Planned Parenthood, said he would support the legislation.

This year, pro-life lawmakers have introduced a number of heartbeat bills including in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.

Recently, a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s new heartbeat bill.

The Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe, and instead allowed abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks. There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider overturning Roe, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain – especially after Chief Justice John Roberts recently sided with the liberal justices on an abortion case.