WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Organization for Women (NOW) has called for a boycott against the state of South Carolina in the wake of the state Senate passage of legislation that would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected. The call is joined by the State President of NOW in South Carolina, Annette Bethel, and members of the Columbia NOW Chapter.
The Columbia Chapter of NOW, under the leadership of Bethel, won the bid in 2019 to host the National NOW Conference in Columbia in 2022. Bethel notes that a significant economic impact due to the loss of a national conference – and perhaps with other organizations and companies joining in the boycott – would be felt. NOW is the largest grassroots feminist activist organization in the country, with hundreds of chapters in every state and the District of Columbia, and with hundreds of thousands of members and contributing supporters.
The fetal heartbeat bill is designed to virtually ban abortion in the state of South Carolina – it is unconstitutional. Many women do not know that they are pregnant when a fetal heartbeat can first be detected; this generally occurs between six and eight weeks after conception. The legislation would also make it a felony crime if a doctor performs an abortion after a heartbeat has been detected, carrying with it a two-year prison sentence. Similar legislation in other states has been permanently enjoined or found unconstitutional. This bill, should it become law, in all likelihood, will be challenged in court.
The South Carolina House is reported to be likely to approve the legislation and the Governor, a Republican, has vowed to sign it into law. A majority of Americans support abortion rights and have done so for decades. The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade protects access to abortion care as a matter of privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A woman may obtain an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy without government interference. Under Roe, the right to decide is classified as fundamental, requiring a standard of strict scrutiny, the highest level of judicial review in any legal challenge. Fetal heartbeat laws do not hold up under strict scrutiny.
NOW has long advocated for protecting the right of persons to decide whether or when to have children. This is a decision that should be made by the individual, not by legislators. And until the state of South Carolina takes action to reverse this unconstitutional act, NOW and the power of its grassroots network will be taking its financial support elsewhere.