South Carolina House the latest to approve ‘heartbeat’ legislation

South Carolina Rep. John McCravy sponsored the state's version of a "heartbeat bill." Screen capture from South Carolina ETV.

South Carolina Rep. John McCravy sponsored the state's version of a "heartbeat bill." Screen capture from South Carolina ETV.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina has become the latest state to advance a “heartbeat bill” that would effectively ban abortions at about six weeks.

Georgia passed it’s version of the anti-abortion measure last month. Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the legislation.

The South Carolina House voted 70-31 nearly along party lines to approve the legislation. Three Democrats voted in favor of the ban, with one Republican voting against it.

The legislation now goes to the state’s Senate for that chamber’s consideration.

South Carolina's bill, House Bill 3020, would outlaw most abortions after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which is usually around six weeks and before most women know they are pregnant. Like in Georgia, South Carolina's current law outlaws abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

After a lengthy debate, lawmakers voted to allow later abortions in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger. A doctor would determine if the mother had been a victim of rape or incest.

The bill’s sponsor, South Carolina Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, said while he disagreed with allowing exceptions for rape and incest, he was pleased the House approved the proposal.

He said he felt the legislation aligned with the majority of South Carolina residents' feelings on abortion.

McCravy pointed to a February Winthrop Poll that showed about 52% of South Carolinians believe abortion should be illegal if the pregnancy was unplanned or if the mother didn't feel capable of taking care of the child. The poll found that 70% percent of South Carolina residents believe abortion should be legal if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

“Our state is a very conservative state,” McCravy said. "The majority (of South Carolinians) are pro-life to some extent."

Democrats filed nearly 150 amendments to the legislation, discussing only 12 before opting not to debate the rest.

South Carolina Rep. Justin Bamberg, a Bamberg Democrat, said he pulled the bulk of his 120 amendments because he knew he wasn’t going to change any of his colleagues’ minds.

“I’m just asking you all as we move forward let’s accomplish as much good as we can while we’re here,” Bamberg said. “And in the fight to protect children that are unborn, let’s make sure we’re doing every single thing possible to protect and to invest in and to fight for all of the children that are already here and suffering and poor and sick and dying.”

Since South Carolina’s self-imposed date to pass legislation out of at least one chamber passed earlier this month, two-thirds of the Senate would need to approve the proposal for it to become law this year.

Otherwise, lawmakers could take up the issue next January when they return for the second of the two-year legislative session.

South Carolina’s bill does not include what many supporters called “personhood” language, which would also allow parents, once a heartbeat is detected, to claim an embryo on their taxes as a dependent and it would be counted toward the state’s population.