COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Senate will start its week Tuesday with the fetal heartbeat bill.
On the calendar for the Senate meeting scheduled to begin at noon Tuesday is the second of three readings for the bill.
The bill would prevent a woman from getting an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected unless the woman is classified under certain medical exceptions.
According to articles on Medical News Today and LiveScience, a fetal heartbeat usually begins around six weeks into a pregnancy. An article on What to Expect adds that the heart muscle begins to develop in the fourth week of a pregnancy and that the forming heart may begin to beat erratically within the fifth week of a pregnancy.
Assuming that the ban would begin at the sixth week of pregnancy, the number of abortions would be lowered by about half. According to statistics from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, in 2019, there were 5,101 abortions − up from 4,646 in 2018 − approximately 45.5% of which are estimated to have occurred during the first six weeks of a pregnancy. About 53.9% of abortions in the state took place within 7 to 13 weeks.
The bill was reported favorably by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee on Monday. That committee voted 9-8 to recommend the bill favorably Thursday.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would go to the House for its approval. As the House approved a similar bill in 2020, it probably would approve the Senate bill. Once approved by the House, the bill would go to Gov. Henry McMaster for his signature to become law.
McMaster has already said he would sign such a bill immediately after it arrives on his desk.
It is not known what would happen once the bill was signed by McMaster and the law went into effect.
A lawsuit from a pro-choice group would be a certainty if the bill goes into effect and that case would ultimately land in the Supreme Court. Currently, the Supreme Court is seen as having a 6 to 3 conservative majority, but there have been discussions among some Democrats to expand the number of justices on the court.
Also on the Senate calendar Tuesday is a resolution to set noon on Feb. 3 as the time for several judicial elections and uncontested local bills to expand the number of members of the Hartsville Community Center Building Commission from three to five (Gerald Malloy), to provide for $100 payments for members of the Lee County Transportation Committee when they attend meetings, to expand the number of members of the consolidated Clarendon County School board from seven to nine and to add four members to the Chester County Board of Directors.
On the House calendar for Tuesday is a bill allowing the sale of Santee Cooper, adopting two revised code volumes, and allowing the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to authorize medical professionals to be able to provide the COVID-19 vaccine.