South Carolina poised to enforce Fetal Heartbeat Bill, possibly stricter abortion laws

The Fetal Heartbeat Bill bans abortions after the six-week mark of a woman’s pregnancy.
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 7:05 PM EDT
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - South Carolina is considered one of the many states that will likely have near total-ban abortion laws, if not banning it completely.

Friday, in a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court put down its Dobbs decision, thus overturning Roe v. Wade. The landmark case had been enacted for more than 50 years.

This landmark decision will change when women can get an abortion in South Carolina. A bill signed just months ago, dubbed the ‘The Fetal Heartbeat Bill,’ makes it illegal to get an abortion after six weeks, or when the heartbeat is detected.

Polar opposite reactions to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision came in from across the state.

”We all stood up and applauded widely,” Executive Director of SC Citizens for Life Holly Gatling said.

”We are just disgusted. We’re appalled,” Ann Warner, CEO of Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), said.

Warner says the future looks bleak for thousands of people’s access to reproductive healthcare.

It will not only put a strain on women’s rights, she says, but also on healthcare. She says doctors will not be able to make the best decisions for their patients. She also says it will put restrictions on the most vulnerable populations.

”We are going to see an immediate affect on our healthcare system where people who are pregnant or could be pregnant are going to be terrified,” Warner said.

On the other hand, Gatling says today is a chance at an opportunity. This is one step closer to accomplishing their goals. However, she says they also want to make the abortion industry illegal and also make it so that women are not prosecuted if they do get an abortion.

She says they also want enforcement against abortionist that violate any abortion laws.

”Today has removed a huge roadblock that has been preventing us all these years from outlawing abortion here in South Carolina,” Gatling said.

With the road to outlawing looking clear, S.C. lawmakers could pass even stricter laws than the state has now.

”Knowing the membership, the body…I would be surprised if we don’t have further legislation,” Speaker Pro Temp Tommy Pope said.

South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat Bill could start being enforced very soon. The bill was signed Feb. 21, 2021 by Gov. Henry McMaster.

It limits abortions to the six-week mark after a heartbeat is detected and requires a person giving an abortion to have the parent listen to the heartbeat, get an ultrasound and be given childhood development information.

The Fetal Heartbeat Bill has been stuck in the courts ever since it became a law after Planned Parenthood sued the state. The law was supposed to be reviewed by the full panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, but now that has seemingly changed.

Gov. McMaster said in a statement that the state is filing a motion to allow the bill to go into effect.

Attorney General Alan Wilson filed that emergency motion to start enforcing The Fetal Heartbeat bill as soon as possible. The courts have given Planned Parenthood until Monday to respond.

Pope says a bipartisan committee has already been discussing next legislative steps.

That committee is chaired by Republican Representative John McCravy, who also leads the Family Committee. This new committee is made up of eight Republicans and four Democrats from the state’s House of Representatives. It will write the bill and also take public testimony.

”We’ve fought hard over the years to do more and more to protect life but we want to do it in a wise and just way,” he said.

While a total ban is not completely off the table, Pope hopes there could be some protections for when mothers lives are in danger.

“That’s something we’ll have to debate out and have to deal with and hear both sides,” Pope said.

While all that is being discussed, the two very different groups say they are already preparing their game plans to advocate for their respective side.

”Now we move for legislation that would basically make a state that protected unborn women, unborn children and their mothers,” Gatling said.

”Focus on the South Carolina General Assembly and we’re gonna have to keep that focus because we have a lot of hard days, weeks, and months ahead of us and it’s gonna be really hard work,” Warner said.

Pope says they lawmakers could be called back in the next month or so to take up abortion laws and hear what the committee planned.

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