Lt. Governor Evette joins Governor McMaster as he signs two child safety bills into law

Lt. Governor Evette joins Governor McMaster as he signs two child safety bills into law

Original post publisehd by on May 30, 2024

COLUMBIA — Gov. Henry McMaster ceremoniously signed two child safety bills into law Wednesday. 

A news release from the governor’s office said McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette were joined in Columbia by members of the General Assembly and other community leaders for the two bills: House Bill 4624, the “Help Not Harm Bill,” and House Bill 3424, the “Child Online Safety Act.”

“Protecting the innocence of our state’s children is our shared responsibility, and as threats to our children emerge, we must adapt our laws to ensure their safety,” McMaster said at the signing. “These signings reflect our commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of all our state’s children from damaging influences online and off. I am grateful for the support of the General Assembly and all those who have worked to bring these critical pieces of legislation to my desk.”

Help Not Harm Bill

The “Help Not Harm Bill” prohibits healthcare professionals from knowingly providing gender transition procedures to a person under 18 years of age, according to the news release. Gender transition procedures are defined as “puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or genital or non-genital gender reassignment surgery, used for the purpose of assisting an individual with a physical gender transition.”

The bill was first introduced in the House on Jan. 9 and ultimately passed in a 67-26 vote on May 9. It was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 18, which approved the bill in a 28-8 votes on May 2. The bill was then ratified on May 15. 

“We do not know how many surgeries have taken place in South Carolina related to this issue, but one is too many,” State Rep. Davey Hiott said. “It is past time that we protect our children.”

The bill also prohibits public funds from being used directly or indirectly for gender transition procedures and excludes the South Carolina Medicaid Program from reimbursing or providing coverage for these procedures under the bill’s provisions. 

The new law also stipulates parameters for current treatments. 

“If prior to August 1, 2024, a health care professional initiated a course of treatment that includes the prescription, delivery, or administration of a puberty-blocking drug or a cross-sex hormone to a person under the age of eighteen, and if the health care professional determines and documents in the person’s medical record that immediately terminating the person’s use of the drug or hormone would cause harm to the person, the health care professional may institute a period during which the person’s use of the drug or hormone is systematically reduced,” the bill reads. “That period may not extend beyond January 31, 2025.”

Child Online Safety Act 

The “Child Online Safety Act” protects minors from harmful online content by mandating websites containing 33.33 percent or more material deemed harmful to minors implement an age verification system to ensure that users under 18 years old cannot access the material.

Harmful online content is defined as “material or performances that depict sexually explicit nudity or sexual activity that an average adult applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance has a tendency to appeal to a prurient interest of minors in sex.” This portion of the bill is effective Jan. 1, 2025. 

“A commercial entity may not be held liable under this section for allowing access to its website if the entity uses reasonable age verification methods to verify that the individual attempting to access the material from its website is not a minor.” 

The bill was introduced in the House on Jan. 10, 2023, and ultimately passed in a 100-1 vote on May 9. It was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 1, which gave the bill approval in a 43-0 vote on May 8. The bill was also ratified on May 15. 

“The average age that a child is first exposed to this material online is 11 years old,” State Rep. Travis Moore said. “The state clearly has a compelling interest to protect our children, and that is what this bill does.”

According to the bill, it also makes websites producing obscene material or promoting child pornography or child sexual exploitation liable to an individual for damages, court costs and reasonable attorney fees, as ordered by the court and is open to class action suits.

“A tremendous body of work was developed for the promulgation of this legislation. We have put the guardrails in place to keep our children from going into digital destruction,” said State Senator Danny Verdin.