South Carolina’s state senate has passed a heartbeat bill to prohibit most abortions after the point that a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually takes place around six weeks’ gestation. Over the next few weeks, the state house will consider the bill, and if it passes, it will head to the desk of Republican governor Henry McMaster.
Most observers expect that the heartbeat bill will make it into law this year, as the state house has passed similar measures in previous sessions and McMaster has affirmed that he would sign the legislation.
This latest pro-life effort makes South Carolina one of about a dozen states that have attempted to prohibit abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. In 2019, these laws were enacted in several pro-life states including Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. It was one of the most aggressive state-level legislative efforts to protect unborn children that pro-life lawmakers have ever attempted.
Nearly all of those heartbeat bills, including iterations that a few additional states had attempted to pass several years earlier, have been struck down by judges, who have ruled that the laws are unconstitutional restrictions on the constitutional right to abortion as articulated in Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court cases.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and advocacy groups already have promised to fight the heartbeat bill in South Carolina if it does take effect. Unfortunately, until the Supreme Court chooses to take a new case addressing the constitutionality of state regulations to protect unborn human beings, it’s likely that further attempts to block heartbeat bills will succeed.