South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is fighting in court for the right to protect unborn babies from abortion once their heartbeat is detectable.

On Wednesday, the governor asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a ruling blocking the state from enforcing its Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act.

“As I’ve said before, the right to life is the most precious of rights and the most fragile,” McMaster said in a statement. “We must never let it be taken for granted or taken away. And we must protect life at every opportunity, regardless of cost or inconvenience.”

The pro-life law, which passed earlier this year, prohibits abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, typically about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions are allowed in cases of rape, incest or risks to the mother’s life. Abortionists who violate the law could face a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for up to two years.

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If enforced, the legislation has the potential to save thousands of babies’ lives. According to state health data, more than 5,100 abortions were reported in 2019 in South Carolina.

Planned Parenthood and the Greenville Women’s Clinic filed a lawsuit immediately after the law passed, and federal Judge Mary Lewis blocked the law in March. The abortion facilities also asked for a summary judgment, arguing that “the other party’s case has so little factual or legal basis that it should be thrown out,” according to The State.

However, McMaster’s office told the Fourth Circuit that the abortion facilities lack standing to sue in the matter, and the lower court “erred … by disregarding the Act’s severability clause and erroneously imposing its own views of the Act’s purposes.”

The governor expressed hope that states will be allowed to protect unborn babies from abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court hears a Mississippi abortion case next year.

“While the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case related to Mississippi’s law offers great hope and promise for protecting the lives of the unborn, we must defend South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat Act against every challenge at every level,” McMaster said.

In March, state Attorney General Alan Wilson defended the pro-life law in court, telling Judge Lewis that a “heartbeat is a key indicator of human life. As set forth in the General Assembly’s findings the presence of a heartbeat is a sign that the fetus is highly likely to survive until live birth,” according to The State.

A number of states have passed heartbeat laws in recent years, but all have been banned from enforcing them due to legal challenges by abortion activist groups. Other states with heartbeat laws include Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

Polls suggest Americans support strong limits on abortion. A 2019 Hill-HarrisX survey found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive. Gallup polls also consistently have found that a majority of Americans think all or most abortions should be illegal.

In 1973, the Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, and instead forced states to legalize abortion on demand. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.

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