SOUTH CAROLINA (WSAV) — The abortion laws in South Carolina seem clear after the Roe v. Wade decision.

What is still not clear is how will the statute be enforced by law enforcement and prosecutors.

The fetal heartbeat bill bans any procedure after an ultrasound detects a baby’s heartbeat in the womb, which is around six weeks into pregnancy.

But if someone violates that law who is responsible and can they or will they be prosecuted in the Lowcountry?

“We have had criminal statutes addressing abortions as long as any of us can remember,” said 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone.

But now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the spotlight is shining on states with laws in effect, like South Carolina. But Stone doesn’t believe that spotlight will result in a glut of criminal cases.

“If history is any of our teachers, this may not have any effect on the criminal justice system,” says Stone. “Abortion has been illegal in some form in South Carolina forever and we have received in South Carolina very few cases. My office hasn’t received any cases.”

WSAV: “Since you started as a prosecutor. You haven’t seen any cases.?”
Stone: “I have not. I have not.”

By the rule of current South Carolina state law, a woman asking for an abortion cannot be charged. Only the doctor who performs the procedure, and only if they do not report it as rape or incest to law enforcement within 24 hours. They could face a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

“Those statutes are targeted at the doctors that perform it and I would suspect those doctors will change their practices,” Stone said.

If there was a case, when it comes to making an arrest, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office says, “If we receive a complaint we will investigate it thoroughly in coordination with our general counsel and the Solicitor’s office.

“The attention has always been there,” Stone said. “It’s always been a hot button issue. It’s an important issue but from the standpoint of an effect on the criminal justice system, I’m not sure if that translates to several other cases. But again we will just have to see.”

Stone added that there are no known agencies performing abortions in his five-county district, which includes Beaufort and Jasper, Allendale, Hampton, and Colleton counties.

The only known clinics are in Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston.

But even those have seen no arrests, challenges to the laws or criminal cases since they have been in operation. Those facilities have said they plan to continue with procedures while following current laws.

This could all change again.

Republican State Senators have introduced a bill that would ban all abortions from conception, except to save the life of the mother. It would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

The South Carolina House of Representatives heard public comments on the abortion issue this week.