COLUMBIA, S.C. — Several lawmakers in South Carolina have announced they will introduce pro-life bills in the state’s upcoming legislative session, set to begin next month.
Three anti-abortion laws are expected to be filed: a bill forbidding abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, a bill establishing fetal personhood and a bill restricting dismemberment abortions.
Pro-life lawmakers in the state say they have been encouraged by the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the 2017 election of conservative Gov. Henry McMaster.
“There’s been nobody more committed to pro-life legislation than Gov. McMaster, and there’s absolutely no reason to expect that to change in the coming legislative session,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes told The State.
Fetal heartbeat bills will be filed by state Rep. John McCravy and state Sen. Larry Grooms.
If it becomes law, the legislation would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs at around six weeks.
Similar proposals introduced in prior years have required that a doctor examine for the heartbeat of a fetus before performing an abortion. If one is detected, the doctor would be prohibited from performing the abortion, with the exceptions of rape, fetal abnormalities, incest and as a requirement to save the mother’s life.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported that more than 60% of the abortions conducted in South Carolina in 2017 occurred after six weeks of pregnancy.
“It’s a commonsense bill. If a heart stops beating permanently, the person is dead,” said McCravy, according to The State.
“Common sense should tell us that when a heart is beating, we have a precious human life that should not be terminated.”
The fetal-heartbeat bill failed to make it through the legislature in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018. Last year, Democratic legislators held a filibuster to stall a vote until the proposal was dropped.
Sen. Margie Matthew, an opponent of the bill, said a push for the measure would “waste its legislative capital on doing something just to please the fringes of a political party and pandering to just a few people,” The State reported.
Matthew said the state’s priorities are misplaced, noting that legislators’ efforts would be better spent toward education, port accessibility and workforce development.
Rep. Gary Simrill, the state’s House majority leader, said the bill has a strong chance of passing through the state’s House.
State Rep. Lin Bennett said she plans to refile a bill that will seek to ban dismemberment abortions.
Sen. Richard Cash will refile the Personhood Act. The bill recognizes that the right to life begins at conception and would almost outlaw abortions across the board.
According to The State, opponents to those bills have expressed that, if passed, the legislation would be likely overturned in court. Similar laws have been overturned by federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to re-examine lower court rulings.
With the recent additions to the Supreme Court, conservative legislators said the timing is right for pro-life actions.
“We have a moral obligation to defend life,” Long told The State.
“The court system is primed and ready for a good piece of pro-life legislation. Now is the time we need to be pushing and fighting to get legislation like this passed. The tide is turning.”