South Carolina governor awaits bill banning most abortions

South Carolina Rep. David Hiott, R-Pickens, says a prayer as the House votes on a bill that would ban most abortions in the state on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Columbia, S.C. The bill will soon go to the governor. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Rep. Melissa Lackey Oremus, R-Aiken, speaks in favor of an abortion bill as it is debated on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Columbia, S.C. Democrats walked out, leaving members to speak to many empty seats. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Black members of the South Carolina House walk out as an abortion bill is debated on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Columbia, S.C. The House is expected to pass the bill that would ban nearly all abortions and send it to the governor's desk. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, speaks against an abortion bill as it is debated on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Columbia, S.C. Democrats walked out, leaving members to speak to many empty seats. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

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Abortion-South Carolina

South Carolina Rep. David Hiott, R-Pickens, says a prayer as the House votes on a bill that would ban most abortions in the state on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Columbia, S.C. The bill will soon go to the governor. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)JEFFREY COLLINSThu, 18 February 2021, 6:00 am

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A bill banning most abortions in South Carolina is likely heading to the governor’s desk Thursday and he has promised to sign it into law as soon as he can. The measure is unlikely to take effect, however, as it faces almost certain challenges in court.

Federal law, which takes precedence over state law, currently allows abortion. But groups that oppose abortion restrictions must file a lawsuit to stop the local measure from taking effect — something that has happened in every one of the dozen states that passed similar measures before South Carolina.

Supporters of restrictive abortion laws are trying to get the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes that — with three justices appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump — the court could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision supporting abortion rights.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has made the abortion ban one of his biggest goals since becoming governor in 2017, repeatedly asking lawmakers to pass and send it to him. Republicans gained three seats in the state Senate in 2020, allowing the ban to finally make it through the General Assembly.

The South Carolina House set up what could be a quick signing ceremony by passing the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” on a 79-35 vote Wednesday. The House will give it a final procedural vote Thursday before sending it to McMaster.

The bill requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus. If one is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or the mother’s life is in danger.

The bill would not punish a pregnant woman for getting an illegal abortion, but the person who performed the abortion could be charged with a felony, sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000 if found guilty.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.