The South Carolina Supreme Court has blocked the state’s heartbeat law, which protects preborn children from abortion once their heartbeat can be detected. This usually occurs around six weeks, though the heart starts beating as early as 16-22 days. The ruling comes as state lawmakers consider a bill that would protect all preborn children in South Carolina from abortion.
The heartbeat law went into effect in July, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. It was then challenged in a lawsuit by abortion advocates, who claim that it violates the state’s constitutional right to privacy. On July 26, Judge Casey Manning declined a request to place a temporary injunction on the law while the lawsuit proceeded. At that time, Manning also agreed with a request to send the case directly to the Supreme Court given its significance. That move led to the high court’s August 17 decision to put the law on hold while it hears the case.
In its decision, the court maintained that it was best to return to the “status quo” of the state’s allowance of abortion prior to the overturn of Roe. “To the extent we address the merits, we acknowledge an arguably close question is presented, which further supports the need to maintain the status quo (that allowed abortions during the first twelve weeks, or first trimester, of pregnancy) by granting a temporary injunction,” the court said.
“We 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,” said Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, in a statement. “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.”
State Attorney General Alan Wilson has vowed to fight to defend the law in court. “While we are disappointed, it’s important to point out this is a temporary injunction,” Wilson told the Washington Post. “The court didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the Fetal Heartbeat law. We will continue to defend the law.”
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