Fetal heartbeat will stand up in court

As state Rep. John McCravy has fought for the adoption of a stringent abortion ban in South Carolina, he’s called upon his Christian faith and conservative values to champion the cause.

But on Tuesday, at the start of a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee meeting that spent the day hearing public input on the Greenwood Republican’s H. 3020, which would effectively outlaw abortions after six weeks, the lawmaker adopted a different strategy.

“I’ve been an attorney for 35 years and I started out as a staff attorney for the Supreme Court of South Carolina, I’ve argued cases in every court in South Carolina, I’ve argued federal cases, and I’ve had a case go up to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, so I’ve had a chance to have some appellate experience,” McCravy said. “We believe that first of all, the informed consent provisions of this bill are clearly constitutional. No lawyer would argue that they are not.”

The “South Carolina Fetal Protection from Abortion Act,” which moved through the House last year, would make significant changes to existing law that would essentially bar abortions in the state.

Key provisions of the measure include:

• Requiring testing for a fetal heartbeat by ultrasound prior to an abortion being performed, and if one is detected, prohibiting the procedure

• Allowing a mother to see the ultrasound and notifying her if a heartbeat is detected — modifying existing informed consent law

• Advising a mother of the probability of a successful delivery once a heartbeat is detected; and

• Creating exceptions to the law in cases of an ectopic pregnancy or if a mother’s life is in danger or if a woman is the victim of rape or incest.

Because a heartbeat can be heart as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy, H. 3020 would drop the current threshold as to when an abortion can be performed to that level from its current 20-week ceiling.

“We believe that first of all, the informed consent provisions of this bill are clearly constitutional. No lawyer would argue that they are not,” McCravy said. “There’s also a consensus among medical experts, scientists, lawyers and ethicists that the standard of viability has changed, that we now know many more things about the unborn child that we did not know in the 1970s.”

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, asked McCravy how many other states have similar laws on the books.

“Do you know if any state that has passed a similar bill has gone into effect? Is it current law, or is it in current litigation,” Kimpson asked. Nine states have given approval to “fetal heartbeat” legislation, and all have been challenged in court.

McCravy said the issue is ripe for review by the United States Supreme Court.

“There’s a strong likelihood, we believe, that the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t overturn Roe v. Wade, they can change the viability standard to be measured by the heartbeat, which now has been proven by medical science to deliver a 90 to 95% probability of safe delivery,” McCravy said. “As we all know from a constitutional standpoint there are many, many cases decided in district court that are overturned by the Supreme Court, so until it gets to that point, we’re not going to have an absolute reading on it.”

McCravy wasn’t the only Lakelands-based witness to testify Tuesday.

“While not the beginning of life, the heart is a universally recognized indicator of life. In frantic elements and situations, we often hear, ‘can you find a pulse, is their heart still beating?’” said Greenwood pastor Tony Foster. “This is because science has already shown us a way to determine if someone is alive. The heartbeat bill stops discrimination against our preborn babies in the womb.”

Foster said he was particularly troubled by the more than 20 million black babies whose lives have been terminated since the early 1970s, drawing a question not only from Kimpson, but from state Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Columbia. Both are also black.

“When you mention that you’re in favor of this bill, you talked about the atrocities that would result, do you think it’s an atrocity for our legislature not to fund programs and support for the women and men who are giving birth? We talk a lot about heartbeats and life, and its interesting to me that we can be pro-life one day and pro-death the very next day,” McLeod said.

Foster said he is concerned with life at all stages and wasn’t able to testify in favor of the General Assembly passing landmark hate crime legislation last year because he was on a ministerial trip to England.

State Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, whose House District 14 includes a portion of Greenwood, said lawmakers have a moral imperative to adopt legislation such as H. 3020.

“It’s not about the state deciding, it’s not about the individual deciding, but it comes down to the issue that we as individuals in society have to stand for life. The basic premise of government is that we are going to protect and defend life,” Jones said. “I’m asking this body to stand for 3020, advance this cause Let’s protect and defend life. Give people the ability to have that self-determination.”