South Carolina senators approved a bill Thursday that would outlaw abortions in the state if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
After days of debate, senators voted, 30-13, in favor of Senate Bill 1, which would criminalize abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detectable except in cases of a medical emergency, rape, incest or a fetal anomaly.
“Life won in the South Carolina Senate today,” said Senate Medical Affairs Committee Chairperson Danny Verdin, R-Laurens. “The rights of the unborn deserve protection under the law. No symbol of life is stronger than a beating heart, and the Heartbeat Bill ensures that when a baby’s heart is beating, the government will not sanction that life to be taken.”
The bill advances to the state House, where similar legislation has passed several times in recent years. House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said Wednesday he looks forward to passage of the bill.
Abortions are banned in South Carolina after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat usually can be detected about six weeks after conception, before many women realize they are pregnant.
The Senate Democratic Caucus released a statement Thursday condemning passage of the bill.
“What was done today was entirely political theater to appease extremists,” the statement read. “Republican Senators showed you today that they want to deny you of your constitutional rights, but they ultimately will not be successful.
“We would like the women and girls of South Carolina to know that this is not the end – this bill will not hold up in court. This abortion ban will be struck down like every other abortion ban in every other state that has attempted before this one.”
Gov. Henry McMaster repeatedly has promised to sign a heartbeat bill if passed by the South Carolina Legislature. McMaster hailed the bill’s passage by the Senate.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been to passing into law the most comprehensive pro-life legislation our state has ever seen,” McMaster tweeted. “It’s off to the House of Representatives now, where we have great leaders who I know will fight for life.”
In addition to criminalizing abortions once a heartbeat can be detected, the bill would require abortion providers to conduct an ultrasound and listen for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. Providers also would be required to advise women of alternatives to an abortion, such as adoption or foster care. As amended, the bill also requires the state to cover pre- and post-natal care for uninsured mothers legally residing in South Carolina
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