South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Thursday signed a bill into law that would ban most abortions in the state, the latest state to enact stringent abortion restrictions.
The new law, dubbed the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” prohibits abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected and mandates that doctors conduct an ultrasound before performing an abortion to see if a heartbeat can be detected. The law contains exceptions for a fetus that is conceived by rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in jeopardy.
Fetal heartbeats can be detected six to eight weeks into a pregnancy, sometimes before a woman is even aware she is pregnant.
Doctors who perform abortions in violation of the law could face felony charges or have their medical licenses revoked.
McMaster signed the bill at a celebratory ceremony, saying the signing “has been a long time coming.”
“If there is not a right to life,” he said, “then what rights exist if not the elementary, fundamental, profound right to life? So we are here to protect that.”
Democrats and abortion rights advocates have panned the legislation. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic already said Thursday they will file a lawsuit to try to block the law from taking effect.
“Important health care decisions should be made by individuals in consultation with their trusted medical providers and their families, not politicians. Abortion is a critical component of comprehensive reproductive health care, and everyone deserves to have access to the health care they need, without politicians controlling when, how, or why,” said Katherine Farris, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
“If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will pose a serious threat to South Carolinians’ health and bodily autonomy," she added.
The legislation is one of several passed across the country seeking to ban abortions at the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be heard. Similar laws have already been struck down in Mississippi, Ohio and other states.
Abortion opponents have pushed forward with comparable laws in part to spark a court battle they hope could wind up in the Supreme Court, which they are pushing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion across the U.S.