The Republican-led, South Carolina legislature is working quickly on passing a “fetal heartbeat” bill that would limit abortion to within the first six weeks of pregnancy.
The current version of the South Carolina abortion bill, which is headed to a full floor debate within the state senate, provides no exceptions against rape or incest.
The bill will be heavily challenged in the courts, and with former President Trump appointing 3 justices to the US Supreme Court, conservatives hope that a challenge will prompt a reversal of Roe v. Wade (1973).
Now that President Biden and Vice President Harris have both been sworn in and the election of 2020 has officially come to a close, eyes are predominantly focused on the next federal administration’s policy priorities and what the first 100 days will look like.
However, in Columbia, South Carolina the state senate is readying its biggest challenge against abortion rights. In a 9-8 vote, the state’s Senate Medical Affairs Committee has passed onto a full floor debate, the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” (S 0001).
What You Need to Know
Key provisions of the South Carolina abortion bill include rules and regulations for medical professionals, such as doctors being required to perform an ultrasound to test for a “detectable fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed.” The bill also prohibits the follow-through of an abortion if a heartbeat is detected. It creates civil actions for a pregnant woman who has an abortion and makes criminal penalties against medical professionals who perform or aid in an abortion.
The Associated Press has reported that the penalty for medical professionals could “face a felony if not reporting the detection of a fetal heartbeat or perform an abortion anyway, and face two years in prison,” a $10,000 fine, or both if convicted by a court.
What Republicans are Saying
South Carolina Governor, Henry McMaster (R) has said that he believes that the South Carolina abortion bill is a realistic possibility in this year’s legislative session, and on January 13th said within his State of the State address, “…let this be the year that we further protect the sanctity of life – with the heartbeat bill. It’s time to vote. Send me the heartbeat bill, and I will immediately sign it into law.”
The South Carolina abortion bill is among six concurrent bills within the legislature that are being debated regarding abortion.
Maurice Washington, who spoke to ABC News 4 (Charleston, SC’s ABC affiliate) and is the Charleston County Republican Party chairman, stated that he was hopeful that the South Carolina abortion bill will become law, “These unborn babies are our most vulnerable population and deserve to be protected…”
A small handful of Republicans, including Rep. Tom Davis of Beaufort, SC, has insisted that he won’t vote for the current version of the abortion bill due to the lack of protection against acts of rape and incest (AP).
What Democrats are Saying
South Carolina Democrats are rallying against the abortion bill. One of their most significant issues deals with evidence from a study on “Trends in timing of Pregnancy Awareness Among US Women” which states that the average time it takes for women to become aware of pregnancy is roughly between 5.5 to 7 weeks gestation depending on a variety of factors.
Some SC democrats have even questioned and criticized the timing of the bill, stating that while the COVID-19 pandemic is occurring, this “shouldn’t be a priority…” and that there are “other pressing matters lawmakers should be focusing on, like the COVID-19 vaccine and public health.”
Meanwhile, state Democrats were quick to condemn the omission of protections against rape and incest.
Why this Matters
If passed by the SC General Assembly and signed by the governor, South Carolina would join nine other states: Ohio, Utah, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, who’ve passed “fetal heartbeat bills” within the past two years. However, the bill is already expected to be challenged in the courts.
South Carolina Republicans and pro-life advocates are hopeful that if the law can be challenged in the courts, it can be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in its next session. As written in a concurrent Senate bill, S 0399, the hope is “that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion shall become illegal in South Carolina…”
With former President Donald Trump appointing three conservative justices: Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and Coney Barrett, to the bench of the US Supreme Court, the court’s ideology had shifted further right then when President Obama, Bush, and even Clinton left office. If South Carolina’s abortion bill is heard before the court, there is a possibility that they could rule to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973), the court case which legalized abortion access nation-wide.
As of Tuesday, 26 January 2021, U.S. News and World and the Associated Press report that an amendment to the SC Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act was passed to allow abortions for the exceptions of rape and incest.
Jonathan Solomon holds an Associate in Arts from Trident Technical College where he studied political science, philosophy, and economics, he is now finishing up his BA in Political Science with a concentration in politics, philosophy, and law from the College of Charleston. He self-identifies as a pragmatist wanting to help educate and create policies and public administrative practices that benefit all people, regardless of political differences.