On Wednesday, having already overcome its hardest hurdle last month, a Republican-backed bill that would likely ban virtually all abortions in South Carolina is heading for a critical vote.
The House has placed the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Abortion Protection Act” on its debate calendar and Speaker Jay Lucas has warned members that it could be a long day.
If, without amendments, the House passes the bill, it will go to the desk of the governor. As soon as he gets it, Gov. Henry McMaster has vowed to sign it into law.
Right after that, organisations opposing the ban would undoubtedly appeal, preventing the legislation from going into effect. In around a dozen other jurisdictions, identical or more stringent prohibitions have been enacted and all are caught up in court challenges.
The plan would require physicians in South Carolina to try to detect a foetal heartbeat with an ultrasound if they agree that pregnant women are at least eight weeks out. If they detect a heartbeat, and pregnancy is not the result of rape or incest, because the mother’s life is in danger, they will not perform the abortion.
It seems that passing the House is a sure thing. There are 81 Republicans and 43 Democrats and similar legislation has been passed by the House in previous sessions.
The bill has failed to pass the Senate for years. But in the 2020 elections, Republicans captured three seats and the newly energised 30-16 Republican majority made the Senate Bill No. 1 initiative and eventually moved it over a procedural hurdle.
To avoid modifying the bill to make sure it passes, Republicans have urged people who want to see even more limits imposed on abortion. So far, the only amendment was to include exemptions for pregnancies induced by rape and incest in the Senate.
The bill will not punish a pregnant woman for having an illegal abortion, but if found guilty, the person who carried out the abortion could be charged with a crime and sentenced to up to two years and fined $10,000.