South Carolina’s Six-Week Abortion Ban Upheld by State Judge

Legal battle abortion ban

South Carolina’s Six-Week Abortion Ban Upheld by State Judge

In a significant ruling, South Carolina’s abortion ban was affirmed to take effect at six weeks, rejecting the lawsuit by Planned Parenthood that had argued for the law to take effect at nine weeks. The decision, delivered by Circuit Judge Daniel Coble on May 16, 2024, upheld the 2023 state law, asserting that lawmakers sought to ban the procedure when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually at the six-week mark.

Issue Over Ban Timing

This decision comes in the wake of Planned Parenthood’s suit, which had asked the court to either temporarily block enforcement of the law before nine weeks or declare that it took effect at that point. In the suit, the group cited that 86 percent of the patients it had turned away since the law came into effect in August 2023 were between six and nine weeks pregnant.

Scope for Appeal

Despite the ruling, Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit still has potential life ahead of it. The litigation has several avenues to continue, the most obvious being an immediate appeal.

If Judge Coble had delayed the ban to nine weeks, it would have significantly expanded abortion access in South Carolina.

Court’s Analysis

Judge Coble’s analysis involved a careful scrutiny of the law and the technicalities involved. On one hand, the lawmakers’ intent was abundantly clear – they sought to ban abortion at six weeks. However, the legal text also had to be clear to the public in understanding the law.

Fetal Heartbeat Definition

The law defined “fetal heartbeat” as the steady and rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac. The dispute arose when Planned Parenthood contended that this indicated the law takes effect at nine weeks of pregnancy, once the four chambers of the heart are fully formed in an embryo. On the other hand, the state’s Republican leadership defended their stance, stating that it was beyond doubt that the legislature intended to ban abortion as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.

Judge Coble’s decision highlighted that the legal text was clear enough to avoid confusion and that Planned Parenthood could comply with the six-week ban without any ambiguity.

Reactions to the Ruling

In response to the ruling, Gov. Henry McMaster’s spokesman, Brandon Charochak, expressed the government’s satisfaction with the decision: “South Carolina’s heartbeat law secured another legal victory today. Life will continue to be protected in South Carolina, and the governor will continue his fight to protect it.”

On the other hand, Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, expressed disappointment with the ruling, vowing to “continue to demand that the courts apply the law as written.” She added, “this fight is not over.”

South Carolina's Six-Week Abortion Ban Upheld by State Judge

Author: HERE Irmo

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