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South Carolina abortion law: Governor Henry McMaster signs 6-week ban into law


James Pollard/AP/File

South Carolina Chief Justice Donald Beatty, Gov. Henry McMaster and new Comptroller General Brian Gaines appear at a news conference on May 12, 2023 in Columbia, South Carolina.


South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill Thursday that would limit most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

South Carolina now joins a list of Republican-led states, particularly in the South, that have fought for sweeping abortion restrictions in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

“With my signature, the Fetal Heartbeat and Abortion Protection Act is now law and will begin saving the lives of unborn children immediately,” McMaster, a Republican, said in a statement. “This is a great day for life in South Carolina, but the fight is not over. We stand ready to defend this legislation against any challenge and are confident we will succeed. The right to life must be preserved and we will do everything , what we can to protect it.”

The law takes effect immediately, the governor’s office said.

Senate Bill 474, known as the “Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” bans most abortions after early heart activity can be detected in a fetus or embryo, usually as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are are pregnant. Any physician who knowingly violates the law will have their license to practice in the state revoked by the State Board of Medical Examiners and may face felony charges, fines and imprisonment.

The law includes exemptions to save the patient’s life and for fatal fetal anomalies, as well as limited exemptions of up to 12 weeks for victims of rape and incest, with medical reporting requirements to local law enforcement. It also includes an amendment added by Parliament that would require a “biological father” to pay child support from conception.

It remains to be seen whether the measure will survive a court challenge now that it has been signed into law. South Carolina passed a similar six-week abortion ban in 2021, but the state Supreme Court struck it down earlier this year, concluding that the state constitution’s privacy protections require restrictions on the procedure to give women enough time to end a pregnancy.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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