A South Carolina bill to protect unborn babies once their heartbeats are detectable moved forward Thursday in the state Senate.
The Post and Courier reports a subcommittee approved the pro-life heartbeat bill in a 3-2 vote, sending it to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee for consideration.
The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act (Senate Bill 1) would prohibit abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, typically about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed for emergency situations. Abortionists who violate the law could face a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for up to two years.
State lawmakers have been trying to pass a heartbeat bill for years and, after Republicans gained seats in the state legislature in November, many hope 2021 will be the year, One News Now reports.
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Gov. Henry McMaster, a pro-life Republican, promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
“Let this be the year that we further protect the sanctity of life with the heartbeat bill,” he said Wednesday during his state of the state address. “It’s time to vote. Send me the heartbeat bill and I will immediately sign it into law.”
Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette also attended the subcommittee meeting Thursday to show her support, according to the local news.
However, one Republican leader expressed hesitancy because the bill does not allow exceptions for abortions on unborn babies conceived in rape.
“I can’t look at a woman who’s been impregnated after being raped and tell her, ‘You have to have that child,’” said Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, the Post and Courier reports.
Polls suggest many Americans support strong limits on abortion. A 2019 Hill-HarrisX survey found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive. Gallup polls also consistently have found that a majority of Americans think all or most abortions should be illegal.
While a number of states have passed heartbeat laws in recent years, most have been banned from enforcing them due to legal challenges by abortion activist groups.
Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the 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.
Though the high court currently has a conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by a Republican president, has sided with the liberal justices on a number of occasions.
North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat laws several years ago, but federal courts struck down both laws. Judges also blocked heartbeat laws in Iowa, Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and other states.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about its ruling on the six-week abortion ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”
The Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, 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.