South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) signed a heartbeat bill into law on Thursday, which prohibits abortion after a preborn’s heartbeat can be detected, usually at six to eight weeks gestation.
Officially known as the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, the law requires a test for a fetal heartbeat to be performed before allowing an abortion to proceed. Anyone performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected would be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined $10,000, imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
Just prior to a final vote on Wednesday in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the last chamber to approve the bill, a number of members of the Democratic caucus got up and left following a speech by Representative Todd Rutherford (D), who announced the walkout while calling the bill a “farce” about “pretend life.”
“The Democratic caucus chooses not to enter into that fray,” Rutherford said, followed by the scene of members exiting the chamber.
South Carolina becomes the 12th state to pass a heartbeat bill, joining Georgia, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Dakota in doing so.
Heartbeat bills are typically blocked by federal court injunctions before they can go into effect, due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion rulings in Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and others. But these types of bills are knowingly passed by pro-life legislatures in order to affirm the intrinsic value of life, and to perhaps initiate the legal and constitutional showdown at the Supreme Court in an effort to once and for all overturn Roe.
At the bill-signing ceremony, Gov. McMaster affirmed the necessity for the law. “If there is not a right to life then what right is there?” he said. “We have a duty to protect life.”
In addition to banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected, the bill also provides help for pregnant women, by requiring the state to fund prenatal and postnatal care for those mothers without insurance.
Planned Parenthood has already initiated a lawsuit against South Carolina in an attempt to block the law from taking effect. The state’s Attorney General, Alan Wilson, promised, “My office will vigorously defend this law in court because there is nothing more important than protecting life.”
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