South Carolina lawmakers moved forward Thursday with a pro-life bill to ban abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act (Senate Bill 1) passed the Senate Medical Affairs Committee in a 9-8 vote, WSPA News 2 reports. The full state Senate could vote on it as early as next week.
The bill would prohibit abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, typically about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed for medical emergencies and risks to the mother’s life. Abortionists who violate the law could face a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for up to two years.
The pro-life legislation has the potential to save thousands of babies’ lives each year. The state health department reported more than 2,500 abortions after six weeks in 2019, according to the local news.
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 during his state of the state address earlier this month. “It’s time to vote. Send me the heartbeat bill and I will immediately sign it into law.”
South Carolina 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.
Medical Affairs Committee Chairman Danny Verdin, R-Laurens
Senator Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee
Senator Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg
Senator Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee
Senator Tom Corbin, R-Greenville
Senator Mike Gambrell, R-Abbeville
Senator Richard Cash, R-Anderson
Senator Dwight Loftis, R-Greenville
Senator Billy Garrett, R- Greenwood
Senator Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg
Senator John Scott Jr., D-Richland
Senator Tom Davis, R-Beaufort
Senator Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon
Senator Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston
Senator Margie Bright-Matthews, D-Colleton
Senator Sandy Senn, R-Charleston
Senator Mia McLeod, D-Richland
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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.
A number of states have passed heartbeat laws in recent years, but most have been banned from enforcing them due to legal challenges by abortion activist groups.
Drexel University Law professor David Cohen told WCSC 5 Live that abortion advocacy groups have been winning against heartbeat laws in court.
“ACLU, Planned Parenthoods, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, and unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe,” Cohen said. “They will all win. And when they win they will get money from the people of South Carolina.”
Other states with heartbeat laws include Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee. However, all of the states have been blocked from enforcing them by court orders.
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.
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.