SC Supreme Court temporarily blocks abortion law

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 3:49 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2022 at 11:21 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s highest court issued a temporary injunction Wednesday that will block the state’s fetal heartbeat law.

The unanimous ruling temporarily blocks enforcement of the law that bans most abortions in the state after six weeks.

The ruling granted a request from Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic, which operate the only clinics offering abortion in South Carolina, for a temporary injunction while litigation continues on the law.

“Today’s decision is a huge relief for people who desperately need abortion care in South Carolina right now,” Genevieve Scott, Senior Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said. “Many have been panicking for far too long as they try to figure out where they can turn to for services, if at all. This unjust ban is incredibly dangerous and jeopardizes people’s health and wellbeing. People should not have to question if and how they can access the essential health care they need. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to fight for and protect South Carolinians’ fundamental right to abortion.”

Jenny Black, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said they applaud the court’s decision “to protect the people of South Carolina from this cruel law that interferes with a person’s private medical decision.”

“For more than six weeks, patients have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for an abortion or suffer the life-altering consequences of forced pregnancy. Today the court has granted our patients a welcome reprieve, but the fight to restore bodily autonomy to the people of South Carolina is far from over. No matter what happens, we will never stop fighting for our patients’ right to make their own decisions about their bodies and futures,” Black said.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office released a statement:

While we are disappointed, it’s important to point out this is a temporary injunction. The court didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the Fetal Heartbeat law. We will continue to defend the law.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham also released a statement on the court’s decision to place the injunction:

The South Carolina Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to block the six-week abortion ban is great news for the people of South Carolina. This blatant government invasion of privacy should have never become law and I am relieved to see the Court put it on hold.

This draconian law is not based in science and strips women of their fundamental freedoms. This law is bad for South Carolina families, doctors, and businesses.

Our fight is far from over but today’s ruling is another sign that the people of South Carolina want more freedoms - not less.

The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Protection From Abortion Act, which Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law in February 2021, had been blocked from being enforced since right after McMaster signed it.

That changed back on June 27, when the state’s law went back into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

On July 13, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic, and two physicians filed a new lawsuit asking the state trial court to block the ban for violating South Carolinaians’ constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection by banning abortion, by providing inadequate protections for patients’ health and by conditioning sexual assault survivors’ access to abortion on the disclosure of their personal information to law enforcement.

One week later, the state petitioned the South Carolina Supreme Court to declare that the law was constitutional and that the South Carolina Constitution does not protect the right to abortion.

The state trial court then decided to transfer the case to the state Supreme Court and on July 27, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic filed the emergency motion for a temporary injunction against the law with the South Carolina Supreme Court, arguing that the court should block the ban while it considers the state’s petition for original jurisdiction.

The law limits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and requires abortion providers to give the mother the opportunity to see an ultrasound, hear her baby’s heartbeat, and receive information about her child’s development.

Doctors or healthcare providers who perform an abortion in violation of the law could face a felony charge with a $10,000 fine, two years in jail or both.

The bill includes exceptions for rape, incest, fetal anomalies and threats to the health of the mother. The bill also stipulates that doctors must give the sheriff the patient’s contact info within 24 hours if an abortion is performed on a woman who was pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

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