South Carolina Supreme Court strikes down state’s 6-week abortion ban


Federal court house in Charleston, South Carolina / Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 6, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Pro-life advocates suffered a setback this week when the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on abortions after an ultrasound can detect a fetal heartbeat, which typically happens around six weeks of gestation.

The 3-2 decision Thursday found that the law violated the right to privacy in the state’s constitution.

“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 pregnancy,” Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the majority opinion.

“While this right is not absolute, and must be balanced against the state’s interests in protecting unborn life, this act, which severely limits — and in many cases completely forecloses — abortion, is an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy and is therefore unconstitutional,” Hearn wrote.

“Six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time,” Hearn noted.

South Carolina’s General Assembly passed the law in 2021 but it was blocked from taking effect by the federal courts until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, clearing the way for states to regulate abortion as they saw fit. Another legal challenge placed South Carolina’s law on hold two months later, however. The law provided exceptions in cases of pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life and of pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Thursday’s ruling leaves intact the state’s existing ban on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, CNBC reported.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice John W. Kittredge cited the “principle of judicial restraint.”

“The South Carolina Legislature, on behalf of the citizens of this state, sets policy, or at least that is the constitutional design,” he wrote.

“Abortion presents an important moral and policy issue. The citizens, through their duly elected representatives, have spoken,” he argued. “The South Carolina Legislature, not this court, should determine matters of policy.”

Pro-life groups said they were deeply disappointed by the court’s decision.

“The abortion industry continues to run to the courts to impose their agenda knowing that the people do not support their extreme policies,” said SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“Advances in science show that by six weeks, an unborn baby’s heart rate is about 110 beats per minute, which can be easily detected by an ultrasound. There is no question these children are human beings like us, and they deserve protection,” she said.

“South Carolinians made their will clear when the legislature passed and Gov. [Henry] McMaster signed this compassionate law that would save more than 4,000 lives a year. In the Dobbs era, when the people finally have a voice on this issue again after 50 years, we will not stop fighting alongside our local allies to protect as many unborn children and mothers as possible.”

Currently, 13 states have full abortion bans and five additional states ban abortion 20 weeks or sooner.

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