If anybody expects an apology from John McCravy over his staunch anti-abortion stance — one that includes no exceptions for rape or incest — they’ll be waiting a long time.
“I don’t apologize for caring about life, and always putting that first,” McCravy said.
Since entering the General Assembly in 2016, the Greenwood Republican has found himself at the forefront of South Carolina’s movement against abortion, championing issues such as the defunding of Planned Parenthood and joining the Family Caucus.
He doesn’t want to be viewed as a one-issue lawmaker, but McCravy, who’s a partner in a law firm along Bypass 72, said protecting the state’s unborn is the most significant responsibility he can think of.
“Christians really aren’t that concerned about our legacy here. We’re more concerned about our legacy in another place, so that’s the legacy I really worry about. We’re all going to go Heaven one day, that’s our hope and our belief, and so things we do here that count for that life is what we’re concerned about,” McCravy said.
On Tuesday, a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee will take four hours of public input on H. 3020, the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat From Abortion Act,” which would require detection of a heartbeat before an abortion can be performed.
Essentially, it would outlaw the practice statewide, as a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as 5 ½ weeks into a pregnancy. The current threshold for when an abortion can be performed under state law is 20 weeks.
In all, 60 people — 30 from each side of the issue — are slated to speak. That includes Tony Foster, senior pastor at Restoration Worship Center in Greenwood and a spiritual ally with McCravy on the issue of abortion.
“Even though we preach about abortion in our church, we teach about, ‘This is an atrocity,’ I feel like we have to do a little bit more in the marketplace,” he said. “We got to be vocal. It’s not enough to be a Christian or have a silent view or private view about life.”
H. 3020 already moved through the House on April 25 on a 64-22 vote, and the Senate is holding fall hearings in a bid to fast track its movement through that chamber and onto the desk of Gov. Henry McMaster, who has said he’ll sign it into law.
Two weeks before that floor vote, McCravy, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, voted against language that would lift the heartbeat clause in cases of rape or incest, but said he’d accept it as an amendment rather than seeing the bill fail.
“I don’t think it’s consistent with the pro-life stance. To me, if it’s a life, we don’t terminate for any reason like that. There are a lot of people wanting to adopt babies,” McCravy said. “But it’s a tragedy in those situations. Whoever does it, they ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but I do not believe taking another life and compounding bad acts by another bad act.”
Over a 30-year ministerial career, Foster said he’s counseled sexual assault victims.
“Besides somebody dying in someone’s family you have to minister to, it is very rough. Seeing the burden of that, we still counsel the young ladies that taking another life is not the answer,” Foster said. “We advocate life in any situation.”
McCravy drew fire for that position during the House committee meeting, with critics saying it was a callous response that was inconsistent with his principles.
“I feel sorry for the women that are involved with that, and I empathize with them. If it happened in my family, it would be a devastating issue, and so I can’t imagine what it would be like,” McCravy said. “But at the same time, we can’t say ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.
Opponents of the provision, including the Columbia-based Women’s Rights & Empowerment Network and the South Carolina chapter of the ACLU, say the bill won’t take effect without a court fight.
“It’s a piece of legislation in search of a lawsuit,” said Susan Dunn, interim executive director and legal director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “I’m absolutely sure that if this passes, like these similar bills in every other state where these have passed, there will be a legal challenge.”
WREN CEO Ann Warner said H. 3020 would lay the groundwork for a destructive future in the area of reproductive health for South Carolina women. The state already ranks near the bottom nationally in health care for pregnant women and is 38th in infant mortality.
“We cannot afford to place additional restrictions on healthcare services. Additional restrictions will seriously compromise the provision of healthcare during pregnancy, increasing the likelihood of negative health outcomes for women and their babies,” Warner said. “Any woman of reproductive age would be affected by this law, but the worst effects would be on people who have less access to health care, including young women, women of color, women with disabilities, women with low incomes, and women living in rural areas.
State Attorney General Alan Wilson signaled his willingness to defend H. 3020 in court, including South Carolina as part of a 19-state brief filed last week in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the prohibition of abortion after 20 weeks.
“The very first, most fundamental right is the right to life and I’ve always been committed to protecting that,” Wilson said in a news release. “This is also an issue of protecting the ability of states to pass laws that their citizens want without interference from the federal government.”
Dunn believes the push by McCravy and other supporters of his bill is built around challenging the landmark 1973 Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision.
“The agenda is to be in the leadership of taking down ‘Roe.’ They want to be a part of the ‘winning team,’” Dunn said. “I think they’re gambling. But it’s a pretty expensive gamble that has nothing do to with health care.”
As more and more Republican-controlled states have moved to implement fetal heartbeat laws, McCravy said he’s not been in contact with any of their sponsors.
“I’m not aware of an organized effort. This heartbeat bill was brought to my attention right in the spring (of 2018), so that’s where we started our effort,” McCravy said. “We didn’t coordinate, and I think a lot of other states saw the news when we pre-filed our bill.”
McCravy believes the push for more stringent abortion laws in red states is a counterweight to policies such as New York’s Reproductive Health Act, which allows for the termination of a pregnancy after 24 weeks if a mother’s health is at risk or there’s an “absence of fetal viability.”
“It’s a reaction to these proposals for atrocities coming from other jurisdictions, so I think our people are not for that, and so that’s why this has gained so much momentum,” McCravy said.