Make It Make Sense: South Carolina’s Six-Week Abortion Ban Approved By All-Male Court
On Wednesday, a newly-constituted all-male Supreme Court bench in South Carolina struck down a ruling from January to greenlight a new law that bans abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the 4-to-1 decision reversing the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection Abortion Act from earlier this year. The ruling comes after Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and three other medical providers filed an action in the circuit court declaring the 2021 Act unconstitutional for banning abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. The new law prohibits abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, generally around six weeks of pregnancy.
“We recognize the tendency of many to view the divisive issue of abortion through a lens shaped by their own politics or personal preferences,” Justice John Kittredge wrote for the majority.
“To be clear, our decision today is in no way intended to denigrate or exalt any of the valid concerns on either side of the abortion debate, whether those concerns are based in privacy, morality, medicine, religion, bodily autonomy, or something else.”
In January, Kaye Hearn, the court’s only female justice, who has since retired, wrote the decision, noting a right to privacy in the State Constitution. Before the decisions, South Carolina allowed abortion until 22 weeks, according to The New York Times. This second-trimester procedure is commonly referred to as a “dilation and evacuation” or “D&E.” In fact, the state had become more of a refuge for women seeking abortions as other Southern states blocked the same procedure.
Today, on behalf of the nation’s only male high court, Kittredge reiterates that the “2023 Act infringes on a woman’s right of privacy and bodily autonomy,” as did the 2021 Act. But, he added, “We are constrained by the express language in the South Carolina Constitution that prohibits only ‘unreasonable invasions of privacy.”
“The legislature has made a policy determination that, at a certain point in the pregnancy, a woman’s interest in autonomy and privacy does not outweigh the interest of the unborn child to live,” Kittredge added.
For the Republican majority, this decision has marked a win, saying in a statement that South Carolina was “no longer an abortion destination but a refuge for the unborn,” the Times reported.