Pro-life legislators are hoping to further push the limits on abortion restrictions in South Carolina.
State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, is sponsoring a bill which would ban any abortions on a healthy fetus once a heartbeat is detected. Grooms said it is an effort to push back the state’s current 20-week limit on elective abortions.
“I believe life begins when a heartbeat begins,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “So I believe the government has a responsibility and a duty to protect that life.”
A similar bill was filed in the House.
South Carolina’s anti-abortion movement has strong momentum in the Republican-controlled state. Gov. Nikki Haley signed a 2016 law which reduced the window for an abortion from the first 24 weeks down to 20 weeks. A fetal heartbeat can usually be detected around 5-6 weeks into a pregnancy.
The law would almost certainly be challenged in court, if it even passes. The US Supreme Court has previously limited state bans to only the time that a fetus would be viable outside the womb. Iowa passed a similar fetal heartbeat law earlier this year which has been blocked by a judge until the case is heard. Previous efforts by Arkansas and North Dakota were shot down in court.
“The courts looked favorably upon 24 weeks, so we went to 20,” Grooms said. “20 weeks was upheld in another state.”
Records from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control indicate more than 3,000 abortions occurred in South Carolina after six weeks. Pro-choice supporters say six weeks is not enough time for a woman to decide if she wants to choose abortion — since a woman is often considered to be four-weeks in by the time she misses her first period and becomes aware of her pregnancy.
Previous fetal heartbeat bills have failed to even reach the House or Senate floor, although Grooms was confident he could get a formal vote in the upcoming session.