COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Members of a South Carolina House subcommittee considered legislation on Thursday that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into pregnancy.
The subcommittee heard testimony about a proposal to require medical professionals to test for a detectable heartbeat before any abortion is performed. The bill provides for exceptions, such as allowing abortions after a heartbeat is detected if the woman's life is at risk.
Republican Rep. John McCravy of Greenwood said he thinks House lawmakers have the votes to pass the bill, which has more than 50 co-sponsors. Lawmakers took no action on the proposal Thursday and are planning another hearing in coming weeks.
"We're talking about a third person here that's innocent, that has done nothing wrong, and you're talking about doing another injustice here on top of anything else," said McCravy, who wrote the bill.
Supporters of the legislation said a fetal heartbeat is indicative that life is present.
Dr. David Sealy, a physician from Greenwood, said he supports the legislation, saying he took the Hippocratic Oath of the medical profession to protect the life of the born and unborn.
"In my office many times I have seen women who have come in very much ambivalent about the continuation of the pregnancy," Sealy said. "Upon seeing the heartbeat, she realizes this is a child and it's her child."
At that point, the majority of women that have an opportunity to see decide to continue with the pregnancy, Sealy said.
Republican-led legislatures in several other states have considered similar bills to ban or restrict abortions in hopes of getting a case before the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, the landmark decision legalizing abortion nationwide. The push comes amid rising optimism among conservatives that the restrictions might prevail in the reconfigured Supreme Court that includes President Donald Trump's appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Mississippi's governor signed his state's fetal heartbeat bill Thursday.
"We will be riding on the coattails of some of the other states who are going to appeal this to the Supreme Court," McCravy said. "The magnitude of it outweighs the expense of it. The fight is worth it."
However, opponents said that if such legislation passes, it would face an immediate legal challenge and the courts would overturn it. The critics also say such proposals are another example of how women's rights are stepped on by the government.
"The use of public funds for narrow, ideological or religious causes is an improper use of our scarce public resources," retired political science professor Dr. Laura Woliver said. "The fiscal impact of this bill should include the legal cost of this predictable failure."
Public health professional Dr. Deborah Billings said legislators should focus their efforts on providing educational resources, improving access to contraceptives and trained workers who can provide those services.
"There are very, very productive pathways that you all as legislators can and should be taking. This is not one of them," Billings said.