South Carolina to Become Latest State to Pass Heartbeat Bill

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster speaks to a crowd during an election night party. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
February 11, 2021

South Carolina is on the verge of passing a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, making it the latest state to move forward with pro-life legislation.

The state legislature's House Judiciary Committee approved the "heartbeat" bill by a nearly 2-1 margin Tuesday, teeing up the legislation for a vote on the House floor. The state senate passed the bill by a 30-13 margin with one Republican voting against the bill and one Democrat voting for it. The legislation would effectively ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, around the point at which a fetal heartbeat is detected, with an exception for cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. Pro-abortion advocates criticized the legislation for its extreme nature and alleged it would force women to give birth.

The legislation comes after President Joe Biden rescinded the Mexico City policy, which prohibited the use of taxpayer money to fund foreign organizations that provide abortion services. Biden has also endorsed using taxpayer money to pay for abortions in the United States through the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. At the state level, however, legislatures are taking action to restrict abortion access. Several deep-red states such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky have passed similar laws to South Carolina's over the past three years but have met resistance from courts that have prevented the laws from taking effect.

South Carolina pro-life groups endorsed the bill, which found success thanks to unified Republican control of the governorship and the legislature.

"Life is the most precious and sacred of all of our rights. The heartbeat bill legislation is an opportunity for South Carolina to stand firm on our most sacred liberty, life, and move our state forward to building a culture of life," said Madison Rainey, state director for Concerned Women for America of South Carolina.

Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, said state Republicans should be ready to fight in court for the law to stand.

"Our pro-life attorney general Alan Wilson has pledged to defend the law which gives a pregnant woman the right to know her baby has a heartbeat and the right to hear the heartbeat if she so chooses," Gatling said.

South Carolina governor Henry McMaster (R.) is expected to sign the legislation into law.

While South Carolina is following the form of the heartbeat bills, other Republican legislatures are attempting to enact more specific regulations on abortion. Florida is considering a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which would put it alongside Missouri and Mississippi as states that have bans on the procedure after that point in pregnancy.

In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem (R.) introduced legislation to ban abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. Republican legislators in Texas have pledged to support a heartbeat bill during this legislative session. Arizona lawmakers are contemplating making abortion a homicide, and Ohio enacted a bill in January banning doctors from remotely prescribing abortion medication.