UPDATE 1/28/21: The South Carolina Senate passed the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act on Thursday in a 30-13 vote. The bill requires that an ultrasound be used to detect a preborn child’s heartbeat on women who are thought to be at least eight weeks pregnant before committing an abortion. The bill is expected to easily pass in the House and Gov. Henry McMaster has said he will sign it.
“If this gets upheld by the courts, we will have saved thousands of lives in South Carolina every year,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R). “That is a tremendous victory.”
1/21/21: South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act passed 9-8 in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee on January 21, and is now headed to the Senate floor. It had previously passed the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee in a 3-2 vote.
Currently, the bill aims to criminalize abortion once a preborn child’s heartbeat is detectable, with an exception for cases in which the mother’s life is at risk (read more here about why abortion is never medically necessary). A proposed amendment would have also allowed exceptions for children conceived in rape and incest, but it failed to pass, according to WSPA.
If the act passes, Governor Henry McMaster has vowed to sign it into law immediately. Any doctor who commits abortions after the child’s heartbeat is detectable could face a felony charge, fines, and jail time.
In 2019, the South Carolina House passed a similar heartbeat bill, but it stalled in the Senate. If the Senate passes the heartbeat bill this time around, it will head to the House. AP News noted that the increase in Republicans — who now hold 30 of the 46 seats of the state Senate — and the identification of this bill as “S-1” shows that there is significant support for the bill this session.
The public hearing for the bill, held on the third day of the session, brought a large number of supporters as well as opponents of the bill. However, according to AP News, before even an hour had gone by, pro-abortion lawmakers had grown annoyed by the pastors and religious groups that showed up to support the heartbeat bill.
“Quite frankly, I’m more interested today in hearing from the doctors and people with medical expertise,” said state Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston).
The human heart begins to beat between 16 and 22 days post-fertilization, before most women know that they are pregnant. According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, more than 2,500 abortions were reported in the state in 2019 after six weeks.
According to the Endowment for Human Development, at about two weeks after fertilization, the baby’s brain is the first organ to appear. By five weeks, the baby’s eyes are present and her lungs have begun to form. By six weeks and two days, brain wave activity has begun.
Even if the governor does sign the bill into law, it will likely face legal challenges, as have similar “heartbeat bills” in other states.