South Carolina’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s six-week abortion ban Thursday, claiming it violates the state’s constitution.
The 2021 so-called “heartbeat act” bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically around six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. It included exceptions for rape, incest and if the mother’s life is in danger.
The ban had previously been [suspended] by federal courts, but took effect after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer. The ban was temporarily blocked in August while the state’s Supreme Court heard the case.
In a 3-2 ruling, the court agreed with the plaintiffs — which included Planned Parenthood South Atlantic — and said the ban violated a patient’s right to privacy.
“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,” Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the majority opinion. “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.”
The two justices who voted to uphold the ban said the right to privacy in the state’s constitution only applies to searches and seizures.
“The court’s decision means that our patients can continue to come to us, their trusted health care providers, to access abortion and other essential health services in South Carolina,” Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said in a statement.
Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary commended the decision and wrote in a tweet that the White House is “encouraged by South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruling today on the state’s extreme and dangerous abortion ban. Women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies.”
However, conservatives, including Governor Henry McMaster — who signed the original ban into law — blasted the justices for their ruling.
“Our State Supreme Court has found a right in our Constitution which was never intended by the people of South Carolina,” he tweeted. “With this opinion, the Court has clearly exceeded its authority. The people have spoken through their elected representatives multiple times on this issue.”
McMaster added, “I look forward to working with the General Assembly to correct this error.”