SC senators amend ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill to remove exceptions for rape, incest
By Emily Scarlett and Laurel Mallory
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The debate over abortion rights in South Carolina is heating up this week.
The Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee met Tuesday morning to discuss House Bill 3020, also sometimes known as the fetal heartbeat bill.
The bill would ban abortions so long as a heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. Sometimes women don’t know they are pregnant at six weeks.
Tuesday, members of a Senate subcommittee voted to add an amendment to the bill to remove exceptions for women who were victims of rape or incest. That amendment was introduced by Sen. Richard Cash (R-Anderson).
The amended bill passed with a vote of 4-3 and now moves on to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee for a vote. If the committee passes the bill, it goes to the entire Senate.
Several other states have passed similar bills. So far this year, nine states have passed laws restricting abortion rights: Ala., Ark. Ga., Ky., La., Mo., Miss., Ohio and Utah.
Here in South Carolina, HB 3020 does still include an exception if pregnancy puts the mother’s life is at risk.
But since the Senate subcommittee took out protections for victims of rape or incest, the bill will have to go back to the House for approval before going to the governor’s desk for a signature.
If the bill is signed into law, it would serve as a major setback to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide back in 1973.
“There are health-related factors, there are economic factors – there are all kinds of reasons that people choose to pursue or not pursue pregnancy and parenting," Women’s Rights Empowerment Network CEO, Ann Warner, said. "We should not be judging people for the decisions that they make that are best for their lives.”
Anti-abortion activists shared a display of a fetus which they said represented a child in the womb at approximately 12 weeks.
“Our mission is to protect the lives of unborn children who have no more rights than a styrofoam cup under the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions," South Carolina Citizens for Life Executive Director, Holly Gatling, said. "Basically, the child in the womb was declared a nonperson with no rights, whatsoever.”
SC Citizens for Life members passed out at about 1,000 displays depicting fetuses during this year’s State Fair.
“The human baby has a heartbeat that is detectable – with sophisticated instruments, of course – by 21 days after conception," Gatling said. “Abortion stops a beating heart.”
On the other hand, Warner said she fears this bill will endanger lives, rather than save them.
“Health care is already hard enough for people to access in South Carolina," she said. "We’ve got high maternal mortality rates, high infant mortality rates, and what bills like this do is actually push health care further out of reach, make it more dangerous for people to be pregnant in South Carolina.”
Abortion rights advocates plan to hold a news conference on State House grounds following Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting.