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The law was one of the governor, Henry McMaster’s top priorities since he took office more than four years ago. Planned Parenthood immediately sued, effectively preventing the measure from taking effect.
The “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” is similar to abortion restriction laws that a dozen states have previously passed.
All are tied up in court. Federal law, which takes precedence over state law, allows abortion.
“There’s a lot of happy hearts beating across South Carolina right now,” McMaster said during a signing ceremony at the statehouse attended by lawmakers who made the bill a reality.
The House passed its bill by a 79-35 vote Wednesday after hours of emotional testimony from both supporters and opponents, and gave the measure final approval on Thursday.
Moments after the second vote Thursday, Planned Parenthood announced that it was filing a lawsuit, saying the law was invalid.
Like other similar laws currently being challenged, it is “blatantly unconstitutional,” said Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
Supporters of restrictive abortion laws are trying to get the issue before the US Supreme Court in the hopes that with three justices appointed by Republican former president Donald Trump to the court could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision supporting abortion rights.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that abortion is legal until a fetus is viable outside the womb months after a heartbeat can be detected, Black noted.
State bills to restrict or ban abortion “are plainly absurd,” Black said. “There is no other way around it.”
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson issued a statement Thursday saying that his office “will vigorously defend this law in court because there is nothing more important than protecting life.”
The law would not punish a pregnant woman for getting an illegal abortion, but the person who performed the abortion could be charged with a felony, sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000 if found guilty.