Here we go again. South Carolina is wading into a divisive abortion debate before anything else happens in the state Senate to appease the GOP’s conservative base. It’s a futile effort that’s ultimately unconstitutional and a huge waste of time and money.
But these legislator knuckleheads don’t really care. They want to ram it through now that the state Senate has 30 Republican votes to 16 seats held by Democrats.
Gov. Henry McMaster egged them on in his State of the State address: “Let this be the year that we further protect the sanctity of life — with the heartbeat bill. It’s time to vote. Send me the heartbeat bill and I will immediately sign it into law.”
Hogwash. If Republicans were concerned about the “sanctity of life,” they would get to work to reduce poverty. They would raise the minimum wage. They would make schools far better and stop being wussies on access to affordable health care. In other words, they’d start caring more about the living.
What’s even more frustrating is that the tone-deaf state GOP obviously didn’t learn anything since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Republican leaders haven’t grasped that continuing to play the politics of division is not helping the country to heal. Rather than giving top priority to, say, making sure more people get vaccinated more quickly to wipe away the pandemic, the state Senate’s top legislative priority is this so-called fetal heartbeat bill that will make abortions illegal just six weeks after conception. That’s before most women realize they’re pregnant.
“Protecting life in the womb has become the politically expedient mantra of South Carolina Republicans,” state Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, said in the Democratic response to McMaster’s address. “In fact, you and other Republican leaders have made a divisive, unconstitutional bill your No. 1 priority again this session, instead of focusing on protecting the 5 million living, breathing human beings who are already here.”
It’s legislating in the absurd. Why? Because fetal heartbeat bills from other states already have been found unconstitutional in lower courts and appeals are already headed to a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court. What South Carolina does makes no difference at the federal level. So it is doing the legislative equivalent of “piling on.” In other words, it’s just politics as usual.
“The state Senate is spending precious time rushing through extreme legislation that would make almost all abortions illegal in South Carolina,” said South Carolina’s Vicki Ringer of Planned Parenthood. “It is absolutely disgraceful and irresponsible.”
And what happens if the Senate, which already has rushed the bill through a subcommittee, eventually approves the anti-abortion measure? Lawsuits.
“The state will be forced to pay their own legal costs for private attorneys and will have to pay the legal costs for those who bring the lawsuit,” Ringer said. “The typical cost for one of these cases is $1 million, but costs may run up to $10 million or more, as experienced by the state of Texas in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case in 2016.”
Another negative impact of the S.C. proposal — it would hurt women in the state, particularly those who live in communities of color, are immigrants or who have been discriminated against.
Ringer said the bill “would prevent women from getting abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — only about two weeks after a missed period. … It is an extreme piece of legislation and would make almost all abortions illegal in South Carolina.”
Furthermore, the bill — which has no exclusions for rape, incest or medical necessity — would dramatically interfere with how doctors in the state treat their pregnant patients and threaten their lives.
“A patient experiencing a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy may need emergency treatment to prevent serious damage to her health or to save her life,” Ringer said. “This legislation would effectively tie doctors’ hands rather than allowing them to treat their patient without fear of prosecution.”
Let’s hope state lawmakers see the folly of what they’re doing and a bipartisan coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats dispose of this bill as the legislative trash that it is.
Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to email@example.com.