State Judge Blocks South Carolina’s 6-Week Abortion Ban

The pro-life governor has issued an emergency motion.

South  Carolina  state  line
South Carolina state line (photo: Unsplash)

A South Carolina judge temporarily blocked the state’s recently passed six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban on May 26.

South Carolina’s heartbeat law, which bans abortion after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, which is often around six weeks, was signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, on May 25. The bill was set to take effect immediately.

The day after being signed into law, State circuit court Judge Clifton Newman of Richland County, South Carolina, granted Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s request for an injunction, temporarily blocking the heartbeat law.

For the time being then, abortion will remain legal in South Carolina up until 22 weeks of pregnancy.  

The South Carolina heartbeat law will remain blocked until the state’s Supreme Court reviews the case and issues a final ruling on whether the law violates the state Constitution.

McMaster on Friday announced he had filed an emergency motion with the state Supreme Court, requesting the court to resolve the case as soon as possible.

“Moments ago, before 5 p.m., we filed an emergency motion requesting the S.C. Supreme Court to resolve this issue quickly. The life of every South Carolinian — born or unborn — is precious and it’s His gift to us,” McMaster said in a tweet.

Moments ago, before 5pm, we filed an emergency motion requesting the S.C. Supreme Court to resolve this issue quickly. The life of every South Carolinian - born or unborn - is precious and it’s His gift to us. https://t.co/SNLuwoc1vX

— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) May 26, 2023

Planned Parenthood argues in its suit that the South Carolina heartbeat law is unconstitutional because it “violates the South Carolina Constitution’s right to privacy and its guarantees of equal protection and due process.”

“In particular, the act is an attack on families with low incomes, South Carolinians of color, and rural South Carolinians, who already face inequities in access to medical care and who will bear the brunt of the act’s cruelties,” Planned Parenthood argues.

A similar heartbeat law passed in South Carolina was permanently blocked by the state Supreme Court in a 3-2 January ruling.

In its January decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the former heartbeat law “violates our state constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy” because “six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time.”

Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told CNA that the temporary blockage of the South Carolina pro-life law “allows painful, late-term abortions to continue in South Carolina and delays the heartbeat protection from saving lives.”

According to Pritchard, the new South Carolina heartbeat law was specifically designed to withstand legal scrutiny. 

“Sponsors of South Carolina’s heartbeat protection crafted the measure to withstand a legal challenge and satisfy the majority of state Supreme Court justices,” Pritchard said. 

Additionally, the makeup of the state Supreme Court has changed slightly since January, with former state Justice Kaye Hearn retiring and David Hill replacing her on the five-person court.

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