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South Carolina Citizens for Life 2023 Year in Review

by | Dec 29, 2023

By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life

To compare the 2023 South Carolina legislative year to the world’s scariest roller coaster would be an understatement. In the end, the ride stopped with a life-protecting fetal heartbeat law.  But it wasn’t where we started, and it wasn’t where we wanted to be one year after the U.S. Supreme Court returned the abortion issue to the states.

In January our General Assembly was well on its way to passing the National Right to Life model legislation, the Human Life Protection Act. On February 15, the Human Life Protection Act passed the S.C. House by an overwhelmingly decisive vote of 83-31 with mostly Republican support. Then the legislation hit a brick wall in the Republican-controlled South Carolina Senate. While the Senate may be Republican controlled, it is not pro-life Republican controlled.

The Human Life Protection Act chugged along in the Senate until April when the Senate gave it a second reading by a one-vote margin. But the roller coaster was about to careen downhill, plunging to defeat on third reading and leaving South Carolina as an abortion destination state.

Skyrocketing numbers of out-of-state women were seeking to kill their unborn children in our conservative, family-values state because Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina laws were more protective of the unborn.

The data reported by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control was grim. In 2022 from January to March, 87 non-South Carolina residents aborted in our state. In 2023 from January to March 1,385 non-resident women received abortions in South Carolina, a 1,500 percent increase.

On April 27, 2023, with six legislative days remaining in the first year of the two-year session, six Republican senators joined the pro-abortion Democratic caucus to “park” the Human Life Protection Act until 2024. Meanwhile the abortion death toll was soaring and something had to be done.

The roller coaster was climbing again. In February the Senate passed a Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, a far less protective law than the Human Life Protection Act. Now it was up to House and Senate leadership to decide what to do.

With 1,000 babies a month dying in South Carolina’s three licensed, lucrative abortion businesses, the pro-life community regrouped from the disappointing loss of the Human Life Protection Act and supported the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act. From the beginning our strategy has always been to save as many lives as we can save until legal protection is restored to all unborn children.

On Tuesday, May 16, in a special session called by Governor Henry McMaster, the House of Representative began at noon to pass a bill that would protect unborn children when the fetal heartbeat could be detected. Pro-abortion House members submitted 1,000 amendments intended to thwart final passage. House Speaker Murrell Smith made it clear that the House would stay in session for as long as it took to pass the Fetal Heartbeat Act.

The roller coaster was rollicking.

After nearly 24 hours of debate, the House passed the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act by a decisive vote of 82-33. On May 23, the Senate approved the House amendments to strengthen the law. On May 25, Governor McMaster signed the bill into law.

But the roller coaster didn’t stop there.

Planned Parenthood sued to stop the Fetal Heartbeat Act from taking effect. The life-protecting law was immediately enjoined allowing abortions in South Carolina to continue up to 20 weeks post fertilization.

On August 23 the roller coaster ride finally stopped when the South Carolina Supreme Court in a 4-1 decision upheld the constitutionality of the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act. The court said South Carolina lawmakers “found that the State has a compelling interest in protecting the lives of unborn children. That finding is indisputable and one we must respect.”

The roller coaster is parked for now and the State Supreme Court has rejected Planned Parenthood’s two attempts to have the court revisit issues. South Carolina Citizens for Life accepts the political reality of having to compromise on a bill that protects the unborn members of our human family once a heartbeat can be detected.

Now we must work to convert a Republican-controlled State Senate to a pro-life controlled State Senate that will pass the Human Life Protection Act and save our unborn brothers and sisters at all stages of their pre-birth development.

Categories: Pro-Lifers