South Carolina Legislature passes revised Heartbeat Bill

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, the South Carolina Legislature adjourned with a sine die resolution that would allow them to return to Columbia to work on pro-life legislation should the rumors coming out of the Supreme Court concerning Roe v. Wade prove true. Just a few weeks later on June 24, 2022, the Court announced that in a 5-4 decision — with Justice Roberts straddling the fence — the Supreme Court dispatched Roe to the dustbin of history.

Pro-life advocates were shocked and unprepared. People erroneously thought the Court’s decision meant abortion was now outlawed in every state. In reality, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health made every state responsible for deciding when a woman could abort her baby. South Carolina began what would turn out to be the painstaking process of hammering out a law to protect life in the womb.

House Speaker Murrell Smith appointed an ad hoc committee to write South Carolina’s first post-Roe pro-life bill that would move us past the pre-Roe, 2021 Heartbeat Bill. For five months over the summer and fall of 2022, the House and Senate traded bills and barbs while trying to reach a consensus. The House wanted life protected beginning at conception. The Senate would not move past a revised version of the Heartbeat Bill. In the end, both chambers passed their versions requiring a conference committee to work out the differences. Negotiations collapsed in November when conferees could not agree on a solution.

With South Carolina’s 2021 Heartbeat Bill enjoined, and ultimately overturned by the state Supreme Court, the 22-week ban made South Carolina an abortion destination state. By January 2023 when the Legislature came back into session, abortions were already topping 800 per month. The House passed the Human Life Protection Act banning abortions at two weeks of gestation. The Senate passed a revised Heartbeat Bill banning abortion at six weeks. Both chambers dug in, with each chamber refusing to pass the other’s bill. With the end of the session quickly approaching, all hope for a compromise faded. Abortions topped 1,000 a month, with half of them coming from out of state.

SCBC Executive Director-Treasurer Tony Wolfe, Tony Beam and Bryant Sims pray with Gov. McMaster.

Here is where to insert two of the most powerful words found in Scripture: “But God.” God heard the prayers of His people and the cries of babies in the womb. Two weeks before the session ended, pro-life leaders were able to get a conversation started between the House and the Senate. Tony Wolfe, Bryant Sims, and I met with the Speaker of the House, the House Majority Leader, the leader of House Family Caucus, several senators and, finally, Gov. McMaster. At that point, the conversation was already underway, and it slowly picked up steam. Leaders in both chambers reached an agreement during the last week of the session, and the governor called the Legislature back to Columbia the following week.

After a marathon session in the House, where members worked their way through 1,000 amendments offered to stop the bill from passing, the House voted 82-33 to advance the bill to the Senate. On Tuesday, May 23, the Senate passed the bill 27-19. The bill went to the governor for his signature May 25 and now heads back to the South Carolina Supreme Court, where we believe it has a much better chance of being upheld.

The power of prayer, the faithfulness of God’s people, and the tireless efforts of South Carolina’s pro-life legislators and activists brought us this great victory for the unborn. To everyone who prayed, came to Columbia, and reached out to their legislator — thank you! To God be the glory, great things He has done!