Gov. McMaster signs ‘Heartbeat Bill’ into law in S.C.

The new legislation will ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.

COLUMBIA—It’s official: The Heartbeat Bill, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, was signed into law on Feb. 18 by Gov. Henry McMaster.

The pro-life legislation, which advocates have been working on for more than a year, passed the S.C. General Assembly on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, by a vote of 79-35, and was immediately forwarded to the governor’s desk.

The S.C. Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act was nicknamed the “Heartbeat Bill” because the legislation bans abortion if a fetal heartbeat is found, which usually occurs around six to eight weeks into a pregnancy. The legislation contains exceptions for rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or to save the life of the mother.

The signing ceremony was held in the Statehouse lobby and was attended by a huge crowd of supporters, who cheered the occasion with loud applause and rousing speeches.

“This is a historic day for the pro-life movement in South Carolina,” said Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference. “Every human life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. This new law will save the lives of our most vulnerable from the moment their heartbeat is detected.

The Diocese of Charleston and the South Carolina Catholic Conference have supported the bill from the beginning.

Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, also cheered the measure. She said they have helped pass 15 pro-life bills since 1990, adding that the Heartbeat Bill “is the most pro-life bill that has been passed in our years of working with legislators.”

Barring an injunction, once the bill goes into effect it will effectively ban most abortions in South Carolina. According to 2017 statistics compiled by the Department of Health and Environmental Control, two-thirds of abortions in the state were performed after six weeks.

However, lawsuits have already been filed by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and the Greenville Women’s Clinic, which filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the bill from going into effect, according to a statement from the Planned Parenthood organization.

It is a familiar pattern. Similar laws have passed in other states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi. So far however, all of those bills have been blocked by the courts.

“We anticipate litigation on this issue,” Acquilano said, “however, the battle to preserve life must include the courts in our system of government. We welcome litigation to continue to build a culture of life.”