South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill on Thursday that prohibits an abortion if a physician detects a fetal heartbeat. The bill will only take effect if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The General Assembly passed the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act with a 79-35 vote. The law requires physicians to test for a detectable fetal heartbeat before an abortion, and, if detected, prohibits the procedure. Any person who violates this prohibition is “guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined ten thousand dollars, imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” However, the law carves out an exception for a medical emergency:
“Medical emergency” means a condition that, by any reasonable medical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman that it necessitates the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death without first determining whether there is a detectable fetal heartbeat or for which the delay necessary to determine whether there is a detectable fetal heartbeat will create serious risk of a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions.
The law also provides limited circumstances where a physician may perform an abortion after they have already detected a fetal heartbeat. For example, a physician may perform an abortion if the pregnancy was the result of rape, incest, or the physician detected a fetal anomaly.
South Carolina is not the first state to adopt a similar bill. Whether these abortion bills become effective will depend on the US Supreme Court.