Democratic members of the South Carolina House walked out of the chamber in protest Wednesday before a vote on a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state. Republican members are expected to pass the vote easily and it will head soon to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster for his signature.
The proposal passed the Senate on January 28. It faces a final procedural vote on Thursday that likely won’t change the outcome and will then be sent to the governor for his signature. McMaster has promised numerous times in news conferences and formal speeches to sign it as soon as possible.
The bill 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 former President Donald Trump — were to overturn a 1973 court decision s
upporting abortion rights. Abortion rights advocates have sued in those states and promise to do the same in South Carolina.
Groups against the ” South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act ” will likely sue, keeping the law from going into effect. Similar or more restrictive bans have been passed in about a dozen other states and all are tied up in court challenges.
The proposal would require doctors in South Carolina to use an ultrasound to try to detect a fetal heartbeat if they think pregnant women are at least eight weeks along. If they find a heartbeat, and the pregnancy is not the result of rape or incest, they can’t perform the abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger.
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.
Republicans have urged people who want to see even more restrictions put on abortion to avoid changing the bill to make sure it passes. The only change so far was in the Senate to add exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest.
The bill would not punish a pregnant woman for getting an illegal abortion, but the person who performed the abortion could be charged with a felony and sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000 if found guilty.