South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has asked the state’s Supreme Court for a rehearing of its recent ruling which declared that the state’s “heartbeat law” is unconstitutional.
On January 5, the Supreme Court struck down a state law protecting preborn children after a heartbeat is detected (this is usually around six weeks, though the heart starts beating at just 22-23 days). The decision marked the first instance that a state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a ‘constitutional right’ to abortion.
In writing the opinion, lead justice Kaye Hearn argued that abortion is a protected constitutional right in the state, saying, “[the] state constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.”
“We hold that the decision to terminate a pregnancy rests upon the utmost personal and private considerations imaginable, and implicates a woman’s right to privacy. While this right is not absolute, and must be balanced against the State’s interest in protecting unborn life, this Act, which severely limits—and in many instances completely forecloses—abortion, is an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy and is therefore unconstitutional,” Hearn wrote.
In requesting the rehearing, Wilson disagreed with this assessment. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and believe the intent of the South Carolina Constitution is clear. The framers of our privacy provision did not conceive this provision as creating a right to abortion,” he wrote in a statement.
Gov. Henry McMaster also mentioned his determination to see the heartbeat law prevail in his State of the State speech last week. “I remain optimistic that we will prevail in our historic fight to protect and defend the right to, and the sanctity of life,” he said. McMaster signed the heartbeat bill into law back in February 2021. “If there is not a right to life then what right is there? What rights exist if not the elementary, fundamental, profound right to life?” he said at the time.
According to ABC 15 News, if the court does decide to rehear the case, there is a chance that it could reach a different outcome, as Justice Hearn is set to retire in February. The news outlet also states there is also no time frame for when the Court has to respond to the petition.
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