On Wednesday, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
, or the "SC Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act," is one of multiple bills that have either been proposed or passed in state legislatures across the country
in recent years.
The bills are the latest tactic to restrict access to safe, legal abortions.
The South Carolina bill passed with a vote of 70-31, and it is now headed to the state Senate, where it stands little chance of passing before the end of the legislative session in May.
"Attacks against women have reached a dangerous new level with the House passing this bill," said Ann Warner, the CEO of the Columbia-based Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, in a statement. "We will continue to speak out loud in support for abortion access and mobilizing people who know that such bills have no place in the Palmetto State."
Critics argue that fetal heartbeat bills flout the precedent set by Roe v. Wade
, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guarantees a woman's right to end her pregnancy unless the fetus is viable, something that most doctors agree happens at around 24 weeks.
A 2016 state law banned most abortions after 20 weeks.
The fetal heartbeat bill could still pass the Republican-controlled Senate during next year's session, but some reproductive rights advocates believe lawmakers will stop the law from making it to the governor's desk.
"The Senate has shown that it takes more caution when taking away rights from people," said Vicki Ringer, a regional spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, in an interview with the City Paper
earlier this month.