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South Carolina governor signs 6-week abortion bill into law

SC: Gov. signs 6-week abortion bill into law
SC: Gov. signs 6-week abortion bill into law 00:45

Washington (CNN) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Thursday signed a bill into law that will limit most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

South Carolina now joins a list of Republican-led states, particularly in the South, that have championed sweeping abortion restrictions in the wake of last year's Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

"With my signature, the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act is now law and will begin saving the lives of unborn children immediately," McMaster, a Republican, said in a statement. "This is a great day for life in South Carolina, but the fight is not over. We stand ready to defend this legislation against any challenges and are confident we will succeed. The right to life must be preserved, and we will do everything we can to protect it."

Henry McMaster Abortion Bill
South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty, Gov. Henry McMaster and new Comptroller General Brian Gaines appear at a news conference on May 12, 2023, in Columbia, South Carolina.  James Pollard/AP/File

The law is effective immediately, the governor's office said.

Senate Bill 474, known as the "Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act," bans most abortions after early cardiac activity can be detected in a fetus or embryo, commonly as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. Any physician who knowingly violates the law will have their license to practice in the state revoked by the State Board of Medical Examiners and could face felony charges, fines, and jail time.

The law includes exceptions to save the patient's life and for fatal fetal anomalies, as well as limited exceptions up to 12 weeks for victims of rape and incest, with doctor reporting requirements to local law enforcement. It also contains an amendment added by the House that would require a "biological father" to pay child support from the point of conception.

It remains to be seen whether the measure will survive a court challenge now that it is signed into law. South Carolina passed a similar six-week abortion ban in 2021, but the state Supreme Court struck it down earlier this year, concluding that the state constitution's privacy protections require limits on the procedure to allow women sufficient time to end a pregnancy.

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