- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2021

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed Thursday legislation banning most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, prompting an immediate legal challenge from Planned Parenthood.

The Republican McMaster signed the bill at a joyful ceremony that saw state legislators and supporters erupt in applause and sing “Praise God” shortly after the state House sent the bill to the governor following Wednesday’s 79-35 vote.

“Today, we made history,” tweeted Mr. McMaster. “The Heartbeat Bill is now the law of South Carolina and we will defend it with everything in us because there is nothing more important than protecting the sanctity of life!”

No sooner had he signed the bill than Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic filed a federal lawsuit to block the measure, which prohibits most abortions after six to eight weeks’ gestation.

“Most of our patients don’t even know they’re pregnant until after six weeks,” said the Greenville Women’s Clinic in a statement. “That means this law would act as a total abortion ban for most people in South Carolina.”

The motion for a temporary restraining order said that more than 75 patients are scheduled for abortions in the next 72 hours, including some on Friday, including at least three whose pregnancies are within days of the second trimester.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson vowed Thursday to “vigorously defend this law in court because there is nothing more important than protecting life.”

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Friday in Columbia federal court, according to Charleston Post and Courier.

South Carolina joins 11 other states in passing fetal-heartbeat bills, but Planned Parenthood said that such restrictions “have been struck down every time they have been challenged.”

For example, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in July 2015 a lower-court decision overturning North Dakota’s 2013 heartbeat law, and the Supreme Court declined to take the case, meaning that the law remains blocked.

Even so, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List hailed the South Carolina law, citing a “growing momentum in the states to welcome and protect unborn lives under the law.”

“Many of these state initiatives are on a collision course with our nation’s current abortion jurisprudence,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Someday soon we hope the Supreme Court will take the handcuffs off the states and allow them to pass pro-life laws – grounded in science and compassion – that reflect the will of their people.”

Pregnant women cannot be criminally prosecuted under the law, but physicians found guilty of violating it would be guilty of a felony and subject a $10,000 fine and maximum prison sentence of two years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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