COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A bill banning most abortions in South Carolina is likely heading to the governor’s desk Thursday and he has promised to sign it into law as soon as he can. The measure is unlikely to take effect, however, as it faces almost certain challenges in court.
Federal law, which takes precedence over state law, currently allows abortion. But groups that oppose abortion restrictions must file a lawsuit to stop the local measure from taking effect – something that has happened in every one of the dozen states that passed similar measures before South Carolina.
Supporters of restrictive abortion laws are trying to get the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes that – with three justices appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump – the court could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision supporting abortion rights.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has made the abortion ban one of his biggest goals since becoming governor in 2017, repeatedly asking lawmakers to pass and send it to him. Republicans gained three seats in the state Senate in 2020, allowing the ban to finally make it through the General Assembly.
The South Carolina House set up what could be a quick signing ceremony by passing the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” on a 79-35 vote Wednesday. The House will give it a final procedural vote Thursday before sending it to McMaster.
The bill requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus. If one is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or the mother’s life is in danger.
The bill would not punish a pregnant woman for getting an illegal abortion, but the person who performed the abortion could be charged with a felony, sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000 if found guilty.
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