The South Carolina House on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that will ban most abortions after six to eight weeks if providers detect a heartbeat.
The “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” which prohibits the termination of a pregnancy if a heartbeat is detected on an ultrasound, passed with a 79-35 vote, ABC News reports. The bill excludes cases of rape, incest, and physical danger to the mother.
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Women who undergo illegal abortions will not be punished under the bill, but the person who performed the procedure could be charged with a felony, jailed up to two years, and fined $10,000.
The bill passed the state Senate in January. A final procedural reading in the House is set for Thursday before it is sent to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who has promised to sign the measure as soon as possible.
Several states have passed similar measures restricting abortions that would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“This is the greatest pro-life bill this state has ever passed,” said Republican Rep. David Hiott of Pickens.
According to The Associated Press, during Wednesday’s House approval, most Democrats walked out of the chamber to protest the bill. During the walkout, Republicans wiped out more than 100 proposed amendments. After holding a news conference to speak against the bill, several Democrats returned to express their opposition to the measure.
Pro-choice advocates are expected to sue to prevent the law from going into effect.
“You love the fetus in the womb. But when it is born, it’s a different reaction,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg. “‘The government not having any business mandating face masks’ sounds to me real close to ‘the government not having any business telling a woman what to do with her body,” she added.
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Rep. Melissa Lackey Oremus was 16 when she got pregnant and she described the first time she heard her child’s heartbeat.
“That sound to me was, I had a human being inside of me,” Oremus said. “That sound, it was the most beautiful sound to me. How could I have a choice to kill that sound, to make it go away?”
Several pro-lifers were reportedly gathered outside the House chamber on Wednesday, applauding and hugging Republican lawmakers who pushed for the abortion ban.
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