The South Carolina Supreme Court on Aug. 17 temporarily blocked the state’s law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is at about six weeks gestation.
“At this preliminary stage, we are unable to determine with finality the constitutionality of the Act under our state’s constitutional prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy,” the court wrote in its order granting a preliminary injunction.
The justices said that they “nevertheless recognize the plenary authority of the legislature to legislate and make public policy decisions” within the constraints of the U.S. and South Carolina constitutions.
Abortions up to 20 weeks of gestation are for now allowed in the state, with exceptions to protect the life of a pregnant woman, or if there is a “fetal anomaly.”
The state’s Supreme Court decision comes on the same day that the South Carolina Senate’s Medical Affairs Committee began considering language on a separate abortion ban that prohibits nearly all abortions except when the life of the mother is at risk. There would be no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. The bill would not restrict contraception access.
The bill was advanced on the previous day by the Republican-dominated South Carolina House Judiciary Committee in a 13–7 vote.
Republicans control both the state House and Senate, but they are a few seats short of a two-thirds majority.
Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, applauded the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision on the fetal heartbeat abortion ban. She said in a statement that the law “interferes with a person’s private medical decision.”
“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,” Black said.
In a statement to outlets, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office said: “While we are disappointed, it’s important to point out this is a temporary injunction. The court didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the Fetal Heartbeat law. We will continue to defend the law.”
Speaker of the House Murrell Smith said he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision, but remained confident the measure would ultimately hold up.