COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Republican-backed bill that would likely ban almost all abortions in South Carolina is headed for a crucial vote Wednesday, having already passed its toughest hurdle last month.
The House has placed the “ South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act ” on its calendar for debate and Speaker Jay Lucas has warned members it could be a long day.
If the House approves the bill without changes, it will go to the governor’s desk. Gov. Henry McMaster has promised to sign it into law as soon as he gets it.
Groups against the ban will likely sue right after that, keeping the law from going into effect. Similar or more restrictive bans have been passed in about a dozen other states and all are tied up in court challenges.
The proposal would require doctors in South Carolina to use an ultrasound to try to detect a fetal heartbeat if they think pregnant women are at least eight weeks along. If they find a heartbeat, and the pregnancy is not the result of rape or incest, they can’t perform the abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger.
Passing the House seems like a sure bet. There are 81 Republicans and 43 Democrats and the House has passed similar legislation in previous sessions.
For years, the bill has failed to pass the Senate. But Republicans gained three seats in the 2020 elections and the newly energized 30-16 Republican majority made the proposal Senate Bill No. 1 and finally pushed it over a procedural hurdle.
Republicans have urged people who want to see even more restrictions put on abortion to avoid changing the bill to make sure it passes. The only change so far was in the Senate to add exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest.
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 and sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000 if found guilty.
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