Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Pro-life priorities in South Carolina


WORLD Radio - Pro-life priorities in South Carolina

A heartbeat bill faced unexpected bipartisan opposition in South Carolina

South Carolina Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, reviews a list of amendments before the House begins debating an abortion bill on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Columbia, South Carolina. AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 23rd of May, 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up today: a last-ditch effort to protect the unborn in South Carolina.

With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, South Carolina seemed guaranteed to enact strong protections for unborn babies. South Carolina did have a heartbeat law on the books, meaning once a heartbeat is detected in the womb, the child was protected, but the state Supreme Court ruled that law unenforceable.

And that turned South Carolina from what might have been a haven for the unborn into a destination for women seeking abortions.

REICHARD: So last week, the South Carolina House of Representatives took up another heartbeat bill they hope will fix legal problems with the previous law. But pro-life efforts have had their share of pushback from Democrats—and Republicans.

WORLD’s life beat reporter Leah Savas has the story, and we begin on the floor of the state House:

SPEAKER MURRELL SMITH: The pending question is adoption of amendment 905. All in favor signify by saying aye.


SMITH: Opposed?


SMITH: The nos have it. The House refuses to adopt the amendment. Clerk will read.

CHARLES F. REID: 906. Miss Bauer.

SMITH: Miss Bauer is recognized to explain the amendment.

REP. HEATHER BAUER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

LEAH SAVAS, REPORTER: You heard that right. Amendment nine hundred and six. This was the scene inside of the Republican-majority South Carolina House of Representatives around 6:30 on Wednesday night.

It was roughly the same scene that had been replaying over and over and over again since 10 a.m. that morning and for almost 14 hours the day before. For the pro-abortion Democrats in the chamber, that was by design.

The week before, they filed almost 1,000 amendments to delay a vote on the heartbeat bill.

REP. BETH BERNSTEIN: We have no intention of pulling any amendments. We're going to stand and debate every amendment that we're allowed to. We are going to make it hurt if they're going to force this on us.

None of those amendments passed the majority-Republican House. Speaker Murrell Smith listed some that he dismissed from debate as absurd.

SMITH: We have Welcome to South Carolina signs that say “South Carolina does not support women's rights” as you enter our state. We have driver's license messages that says “South Carolina does not support women's rights.” Abortion is illegal here. We will put signs on buildings saying that we don't support women's rights. We require each person in this state to read The Handmaid's Tale.

After working through the hundreds of remaining amendments, the House finally passed the heartbeat bill around 10 p.m. Wednesday night. From there, it heads to the state Senate for final approval later today.

The Senate passed an earlier version of this heartbeat bill in February. But that was before six Republican senators joined Democrats to kill another bill that would have protected babies starting at conception.

One of the Republican senators opposing the bill was Katrina Shealy. The state’s National Right to Life affiliate endorsed her in 2020. But last month, she had some strong words to say against the bill.

KATRINA SHEALY: Once a woman became pregnant for any reason, she would now become property of the state of South Carolina if the Human Life Protection Act were to come into law. She could no longer make decisions on her own.

SAVAS: . One of Shealy’s constituents is Mark Baumgartner. He runs a sidewalk counseling ministry called A Moment of Hope outside of a Planned Parenthood in South Carolina’s capital.

MARK BAUMGARTNER: So, yeah, I'm looking forward to voting her out of office, I hope somebody will run against her because I will certainly vote against her.

One of the volunteers at Baumgartner’s sidewalk ministry is Elizabeth Kilmartin. She is married to pro-life Representative Jay Kilmartin.

ELIZABERH KILMARTIN: I think once Roe vs. Wade, once that was lifted, it exposed a lot. It exposed what was really going on in here, and there wasn't a pro-life agenda in South Carolina. It was being hidden under Roe v. Wade. And I try to encourage Jay, and I'd like to encourage a lot of the other men in office and just in general, that these women do not speak for all women.

If you had asked most pro-lifers last year what states would have strong protections for unborn babies by now, South Carolina would have made the list. Ingrid Duran, the state legislative director for National Right to Life, was no exception.

INGRID DURAN: Oh, South Carolina. South Carolina definitely. Just because they have been consistent at least since 1998 in passing pro life laws quickly.

But she said Roe’s overturn put a spotlight on Republicans there and across the country.

DURAN: We have this opportunity now to protect unborn children, we have an opportunity now to do things that we could never do before. And, and I think now it just gives them an opportunity to show their true colors to either be in alignment with what they say they are or not and make room for for those that are.

On Wednesday night, many Republicans in the South Carolina House showed true pro-life colors. During the speeches before the vote on the legislation, nine pro-life Republican women gathered at the front of the chamber in support of the heartbeat bill. One of them was Representative Melissa Oremus.

MELISSA OREMUS: Thanks for my Republican women standing behind me today. Not all of us in this chamber feel the same as the Democratic women. You can call it what you want. I've heard you call it a chemical fluttering. I've heard you call it a glob of tissue. I've heard you call it a fetus. But not one of you women who stood up here—or men said—my baby, my baby. It's a win today for all the babies that are yet to be born.

Hearing Oremus speak was a highlight for Kilmartin. She and her daughter watched the livestream of the debates on an iPad from home.

KILMARTIN: The Democrats just droned on and on, about all the reasons why they need to kill these babies. And so when you did finally get to hear somebody with with just a refreshing take on why these babies lives are valuable, it was, it was beautiful. We were sitting literally holding hands with tears in our eyes.

Pro-life lawmakers in the House say they have assurances that the Senate will pass the latest version of the heartbeat bill, but that outcome is not a guarantee. So Kilmartin is praying.

KILMARTIN: We do pray that these men and women will have a change of heart, especially these women in the Senate, you know, many have run on that pro-life platform, and then here they are exposed. So I believe that the rot will be exposed from within.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leah Savas.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...