Two Democrat lawmakers joined Republicans this week in voting yes on a South Carolina law that prohibits abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
State Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, said he supported the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, despite reservations, because everyone has a right to life, including unborn babies, the Catholic News Agency reports.
“I feel like I need to continue to be consistent,” Ott told the news outlet. “An unborn child is still a human being. … I can’t separate myself from that.”
The state House passed the legislation earlier this week, and Gov. Henry McMaster signed it into law on Thursday. State Rep. Lucas Atkinson, D-Dillon, was the other Democrat who voted in favor of the pro-life law.
The heartbeat law 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.
It also provides 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.
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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, Planned Parenthood immediately filed a lawsuit to block the state from enforcing the law.
Ott expressed reservations about the legislation in a statement but ultimately decided that supporting it was the right thing to do.
“After meeting with women of varying ideologies, I know how significant the heartbeat bill is to many South Carolinans,” he said. “I have long debated this issue in my heart and while I do not feel completely confident in the way the bill is laid out, I believe in the sanctity of life and that extends to the lives of the unborn.”
Speaking with Catholic News Agency, he criticized both Democrat and Republican leaders for using abortion as a “wedge” issue to divide people.
“There’s a lot of common ground that can be found, but it can’t be found if we’ve got one party that’s pointing to the other party and calling them ‘baby killers,’ and we can’t have it if the other party is pointing back at the other ones and saying that they don’t give a darn about women,” Ott said.
“And I just think both sides have gotten to a point where they’ve dug in and they use it as a political wedge in society, and I think that is not good for us as a state or a country,” he continued.
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. 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.
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.