Friday, February 19, 2021 : By Nathan Skates
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law this week that prohibits abortion after a baby’s heartbeat has been detected, a move that caused Planned Parenthood to quickly file suit to prevent the law from going into effect.
- South Carolina is the 12th state to pass a ban on abortion after a baby’s heartbeat is detected, though all of those other state laws are currently tied up in court.
- The law allows for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother.
- Women who violate the law would not be punished but abortion providers could face a $10,000 fine or up to two years imprisonment.
The “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” passed 79-35 in the state House, just a few weeks after the state Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill. On signing the bill, Gov. McMaster said, “There’s a lot of happy hearts beating across South Carolina right now.”
The new law requires a doctor to use an ultrasound to determine whether the baby’s heart is beating. If it is, the abortion cannot be performed, unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or the life of the mother is in danger. The legislation also requires doctors to give a patient’s contact information to local law enforcement officials if they perform an abortion on a woman who says she was a victim of rape or incest.
“This is the greatest pro-life bill this state has ever passed,” said South Carolina Republican Rep. David Hiott.
Another Republican, state Rep. Melissa Lackey Oremus, who spoke in favor of the bill during the legislative process, explained that when she found out she pregnant at 16, she was unsure what to do —until she had an ultrasound wand rubbed over her belly and heard her child’s heartbeat.
“That sound to me was, I had a human being inside of me,” said Oremus, now a 42-year-old mother of three. “That sound, it was the most beautiful sound to me. How could I have a choice to kill that sound, to make it go away?”
South Carolina is the 12th state to pass a so-called “heartbeat” law, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee. The previous 11 states have faced legal challenges to their heartbeat laws and have been unable to enact them as yet.
South Carolina faces the same challenge from abortion giant Planned Parenthood, which filed a lawsuit in the South Carolina District Court almost immediately after the bill was signed.
Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said the law is “blatantly unconstitutional.” She added that such bills “are plainly absurd.”
The lawsuit says the law “is in flagrant violation of nearly five decades of settled Supreme Court precedent,” referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office released a statement in response to the suit, saying, “My office will vigorously defend this law in court because there is nothing more important than protecting life.”
Black said, “If South Carolina politicians truly cared about the quality of life for women and children, they would get to work to expedite the vaccine rollout, expand Medicaid, and address the dangerously high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality in the state.” She claimed the law “pose[d] a serious threat to South Carolinians’ health and livelihood.”
Democrats also charged Republicans with hypocrisy. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said, “You love the fetus in the womb. But when it is born, it’s a different reaction.” She added, “The government not having any business mandating face masks’ sounds to me real close to ‘the government not having any business telling a woman what to do with her body.’”
Democrats claimed Republicans are wasting taxpayer time and money with the bill and should be focusing on COVID-19. “We’re tired of the hypocrisy,” House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said. “We care about life until death. We care about birth. … We care about people eating, people not dying because they can’t get vaccines.”
The bill does include a measure that allows a medical professional to be reimbursed for “prenatal care; delivery, neonatal, or post-natal care; or any other medically necessary services related to a pregnancy,” even if a woman doesn’t have insurance, the same as they would be with Medicaid.
Pro-life groups hailed the law, including South Carolina Citizens for Life, which said in a statement,
“Since the beginning of the pro-life movement in 1973, the most popular pro-life motto has been, ‘Abortion stops a beating heart.’ It is a scientifically accurate statement, not a political soundbite. The Fetal Heartbeat Bill protects a pregnant woman’s right to know that her baby has a beating heart, and it protects the unborn members of our human family from death by abortion when the heartbeat can be detected.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said, “We applaud Gov. McMaster’s pro-life leadership in signing this lifesaving legislation into law. The beating hearts of unborn children should awaken the conscience of our nation to the tragedy and reality of abortion — which deprives innocent boys and girls of the fundamental right to life.”
Democrats, who walked out of the chamber in protest, are using the same strawman argument that is always used against pro-lifers. Arguing that South Carolina’s pro-life Republicans don’t care about life outside the womb because they seek to protect life in the womb is preposterous. In this case, Republicans showed that they care about the health of the mother by allowing for healthcare to be covered for women who don’t have insurance.
Arguing that one must support unfettered abortion in order to care about life is what is truly absurd — not passing laws that protect the life of unborn children.
And the arguments that this piece of legislation is a waste of time and money and the legislature should focus on COVID-19 are cop-outs. Since when do Democrat politicians care about wasting taxpayer time and money? Protecting life is never a waste. The idea that legislatures cannot spend time on anything but COVID-19 legislation has become a common and tired argument by both sides of the aisle. If the legislature can only focus on one issue in a legislative session, then government is even more incompetent than most people already think.
The majority of Americans do not believe that heartbeat bills are too restrictive, as 34 percent say they are “just right” while 21 percent say even bans after six weeks gestation are “too lenient.” A Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in only a few or no circumstances.
Voters in these states want to protect the life of the unborn but are told that they must allow abortion with very little ability to restrict the practice because of Roe v. Wade and the various courts who side with Planned Parenthood over the majority of Americans. While courts continue to block legislative efforts, it is imperative that states push ahead with laws to protect the unborn in hopes that the Supreme Court will give states the right to restrict abortion.