South Carolina’s Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the state law restricting abortions at around six weeks, finding that it violated the state constitution.
Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law in February 2021 barring abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen at around six weeks into a pregnancy. The state can limit a woman’s privacy rights with regard to abortion decisions, but only after she’s been given “reasonable” time to pursue an abortion legally, the court found.
“We hold that our state constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion,” Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the majority opinion. “The State unquestionably has the authority to limit the right of privacy that protects women from state interference with her decision, but any such limitation must be reasonable and it must be meaningful in that the time frames imposed must afford a woman sufficient time to determine she is pregnant and to take reasonable steps to terminate that pregnancy. Six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time for these two things to occur.”
We respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the Court’s ruling. We’re working with the Governor’s office and legislature to review all our available options moving forward. https://t.co/bgAk2dqYon
— Alan Wilson (@AGAlanWilson) January 5, 2023
Justice George James dissented from the majority opinion, arguing that the court was wrongly interpreting the right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment to apply to abortions rather than unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement.
“We must consider the intent of the framers and the voters,” he wrote. “It is clear the framers did not intend to create a full panoply of privacy rights, much less the right to bodily autonomy or the right to have an abortion.”
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade June 24, clearing the way for states to implement abortion restrictions in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, which had generally been considered unconstitutional under Roe. Now that South Carolina’s heartbeat law has been struck down, the state does not restrict abortions until 20 weeks, or about five months, into a pregnancy.
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