South Carolina House passes bill banning most abortions

The South Carolina House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill banning nearly all abortions, following the lead of other states with similar measures that would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Associated Press (AP) reports:

The proposal passed the Senate on Jan. 28. It faces a final procedural vote in the House on Thursday that likely won’t change the outcome and will then be sent to the governor for his signature. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has promised to sign the measure as soon as possible.

The “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus. If one is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or the mother’s life is in danger.

About a dozen other states have passed similar or more restrictive abortion bans, which could take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court — with three justices appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump — were to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court decision supporting abortion rights.

Groups that oppose the bill will likely sue, keeping the law from going into effect. All of the bans passed by other states are tied up in court challenges.

Nearly all members of the Democratic caucus walked out in protest at one point. A few Democrats stayed behind as Republicans wiped out more than 100 proposed amendments. After holding a news conference to speak against the bill, several other Democrats returned to express their opposition to the measure, which has come up for debate in the legislature numerous times over the past decade. Nearly all House members were later present for the vote, which was 79-35 in favor.

“You love the fetus in the womb. But when it is born, it’s a different reaction,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg, the House’s longest serving member at 29 years.

Numerous Republican lawmakers spoke in favor of the bill and many cheered after the vote. Supporters of the ban stood outside the House chambers applauding and hugging the lawmakers that pushed the hardest for the measure.

Rep. Melissa Lackey Oremus said plenty of women have mixed feelings when they get pregnant, especially when they aren’t where they want to be in their life. But the Republican from Aiken said that’s no reason for abortion.

“They don’t deserve to die just because their mother made a bad choice one night,” Oremus said during the debate.

For years, the bill has failed to pass the Senate. But Republicans gained three seats in the 2020 elections and the newly energized 30-16 Republican majority made the proposal Senate Bill No. 1 and finally pushed it over a procedural hurdle.

National Review reports:

The South Carolina House has just passed a pro-life heartbeat bill, which would prohibit most abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy. Seventy-eight Republican representatives and one Democratic representative voted for the bill, while 35 Democrats opposed it, and ten representatives did not vote.

The measure passed the South Carolina Senate late last month and, after another procedural vote, will head to the desk of Governor Henry McMaster later this week for his signature. The Republican governor has already indicated his support for the legislation and is expected to sign it into law.

The bill’s enactment will make South Carolina one of about a dozen states to prohibit abortion after the fetal heartbeat begins. In 2019, several pro-life states including Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee all enacted forms of a heartbeat bill, drawing the criticism of abortion-rights advocates across the country.

Unfortunately, because of current abortion jurisprudence, nearly all of those laws — along with those in other states passed before 2019 — have been struck down in court. In legal challenges brought by abortion-advocacy organizations, judges have ruled that heartbeat bills are an unconstitutional restriction on the right to abortion as articulated in Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court cases.

Planned Parenthood, other abortion providers, and legal groups that support abortion have said they will sue South Carolina over the heartbeat bill once it becomes law. Unless and until the Court reconsiders abortion and the right of state governments to regulate it, judges will continue to block these bills each time they take effect.

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