‘Heartbeat Bill’ receives amendments, advances in state Senate

The “Heartbeat Bill,” H. 3020, would make it illegal for abortions to be performed in South Carolina after a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Photo by Isaac Quesada/Unsplash)

UPDATE: The Heartbeat Bill cleared the Senate Medical Affairs Committee by a 9-8 vote on Thursday, Jan. 21, and now heads to the full Senate for a vote. Stay tuned for further developments.

COLUMBIA – A bill that would outlaw most abortions in South Carolina has found new life in the 2021 legislative session.

Nicknamed the “Heartbeat Bill,” H. 3020 would make it illegal for abortions to be performed in South Carolina after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs between the fifth and eighth week of pregnancy.

On Thursday, the bill passed through the state Senate’s Medical Affairs Subcommittee and now will head to the Medical Affairs Committee. If it passes there, it will head to the Senate floor for a vote.

The bill first passed the state House of Representatives in late April 2020 and then went before the Senate’s medical affairs subcommittee, where it stalled.

Similar bills have passed in more than a dozen states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi. However, all of the bills have been blocked by the courts.

The proposed legislation would significantly reduce the number of abortions performed in South Carolina. According to 2017 statistics compiled by the Department of Health and Environmental Control, two-thirds of the state’s abortions were performed after six weeks.

The bill as it is currently written does not allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest. It does permit an abortion if the mother is at risk of death or “serious physical impairment.” However, on Thursday, Jan. 14, Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) introduced amendments to the bill which would include exceptions for rape or incest.

Davis also introduced two other amendments. One would require that women be provided with information about adoption and foster care as alternatives to abortion, and the other would ensure that women without insurance who choose not to go through with an abortion would be covered for prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal care.

Davis was asked to withdraw the amendments and resubmit them when the bill is before the entire Medical Affairs Committee.

“We are thankful for the brave senators that stood for the lives of our most weak and vulnerable members of society,” said Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference. “The debate of this issue was hard and not without terse exchanges from both sides of the political spectrum. We are thankful for those members that understand the dignity of each unborn child.”