On Thursday, February 18th, Governor Henry McMaster signed the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act”, enacting heavy restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. The bill prohibits abortions as long as there is a fetal heartbeat detected, with exceptions for rape, incest, or if the patient’s life is in danger. This only leaves women a five to six-week period to have a legal abortion. This is extremely limiting as women are often not aware of their pregnancies until six weeks. The bill also calls for any healthcare provider who performs the procedure outside the listed parameters to face large fines or up to two years in jail.
Directly after the law’s passing, Planned Parenthood and a women’s clinic in Greenville, SC filed a lawsuit against the state. A federal judge then placed a two-week temporary ban on the bill so the lawsuit had time to develop through the legal system. U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis harked back to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which protects a woman’s right to choose, noting that the Heartbeat Bill will undo 50 years of established law.
South Carolina’s push for this reform comes now as the Supreme Court is much different than it has been years before. It now has a conservative majority thanks to Trump’s appointees Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. Emory Smith, the South Carolina attorney general’s deputy solicitor, even said to Judge Lewis, “the law is in a state of flux. We have a different (U.S.) Supreme Court, your honor. It’s a different composition. … The law may be what it is right now, but it may be different in another year.” This is obviously a ploy to push a reproductive rights case to the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
This bill has been met with an uproar of criticism. Not only does it substantially oppress female freedoms, but South Carolina legislators are also devoting effort to this in the middle of a pandemic. Taxpayer money has been wasted on this bill. Instead of working to update vaccine distribution plans and provide aid to the community in this dire time, legislators were concerned with reversing a woman’s right to her own body. Governor McMasters should really evaluate his beliefs. How can you be pro-life while there have been over 500,000 COVID-19 cases in South Carolina and over 8,000 deaths?
The hearing for this lawsuit will take place on March 9th. Women have been fighting for their fair say since Elizabeth Cady-Staton stood to speak at Seneca Falls in the 1800s, which then led to the suffragette movement, and then through Gloria Steinams and Shirley Chisolms of the 60s and 70s. Now, here we are today, still stuck in a constant battle of tug-of-war with legislators who refuse to at least give us a choice. There is a lot of work to be done, to see how you can help visit the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network or Planned Parenthood websites.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sums it up best, “It’s a decision that she must make for herself. And when the Government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.” Let’s not settle for less than.