South Carolina Moves Forward With Bill That Would Ban Nearly All Abortion in the State

South Carolina lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, joining a long list of states looking to restrict access to abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

If the bill is passed, South Carolina would join a long list of states that moved this year to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio have all passed similar anti-abortion legislation. Pennsylvania also recently moved forward with a heartbeat bill but the state's Democratic Governor Tom Wolfe vowed to veto it if it ever reached his desk.

The state's Senate Medical Affairs Committee voted 9 to 6 on Tuesday to advance the "Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act." Fourteen men and one woman participated in the vote.

The bill would essentially outlaw abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many women are even aware they are pregnant. Lawmakers originally tried to exclude exceptions for cases of rape or incest but ultimately restored those provisions just before Tuesday's vote. However, those exceptions also come with the requirement that the woman file a police report before seeking the procedure.

The next step will be for the full Senate to vote on the measure, which can take place shortly after the state legislature comes back to session in mid-January. The GOP-controlled House already approved of the proposal.

The bill was passed by the Senate committee just days after South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster claimed that there is "no constitutional right" for a woman to have an abortion. The Republican governor also argued that Roe v. Wade was "wrongly decided" and that he hopes to legally challenge the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision with strict anti-abortion legislation.

"The whole thing is not the kind of thing we like in South Carolina," McMaster told CBS chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett in an interview.

abortion activists roe v. wade anniversary DC
Pro-life activists try to block the sign of a pro-choice activist during the 2018 March for Life January 19, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Activists gathered in the nation's capital for the annual event to protest the anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in 1973. South Carolina just moved forward with a bill that would ban nearly all abortion in the state. Alex Wong/Getty

Laws such as the one South Carolina is considering have often gone directly against the recommendation of health officials, who warn that the use of the term "heartbeat" in legislation is purposefully misleading. Embryos have not yet formed a heart at six weeks. The activity that can be detected at that stage is a group of pulsing cells that will eventually become the heart as the embryo continues to develop.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the largest professional organization for women's health in the U.S., officially opposes such abortion measures because they "do not reflect medical accuracy or clinical understanding."

Nearly all of the so-called heartbeat bills are being challenged in court. Many of them are likely to be deemed unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has traditionally held that a state can't ban abortion before viability, which is about 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Still, state leaders say there's potential to have these cases work their way up to the Supreme Court, which now has a conservative majority thanks to the appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh by President Donald Trump.