A South Carolina bill that bans abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable may become law this week.
WMBF News reports the state House passed the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act in a 79-35 vote Wednesday following its approval in the state Senate in late January.
The pro-life bill prohibits abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, typically about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed in cases of rape, incest or risks to the mother’s life. Abortionists who violate the law could face a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for up to two years.
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. Gov. Henry McMaster promised to sign the bill.
One Democrat, state Rep. Russell Ott, joined Republicans in approving the bill Wednesday. Meanwhile, most other Democrat lawmakers walked out of the House floor in protest, according to the local news.
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South Carolina Citizens for Life leaders praised lawmakers for prioritizing unborn babies and mothers in the new legislative session.
“Since the beginning of the pro-life movement in 1973, the most popular pro-life motto has been, ‘Abortion stops a beating heart.’ It is a scientifically accurate statement, not a political soundbite,” the pro-life organization said in a statement in late January. “The Fetal Heartbeat Bill protects a pregnant woman’s right to know that her baby has a beating heart, and it protects the unborn members of our human family from death by abortion when the heartbeat can be detected.”
The bill also provides additional support for mothers in need. According to The Center Square, the legislation requires the state to fund prenatal and postnatal care for mothers who live in South Carolina and do not have insurance.
If enforced, the 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.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood are expected to file a lawsuit to immediately block the state from enforcing the law.
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. 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.
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.
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.
In 1973, the Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, and instead forced states to legalize abortion on demand. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.