US court strikes down abortion ban in South Carolina | Women’s Rights News

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A court in the southeastern United States has struck down the so-called “fetal heartbeat” law of South Carolina, which prohibits abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

The South Carolina Supreme Court issued its decision on Thursday, calling the ban an “unreasonable restriction” that “violates women’s constitutional right to privacy”.

The law was overturned in a narrow three-to-two vote, with the majority siding with the plaintiffs: two South Carolina physicians, a women’s clinic in the city of Greenville and the nonprofit Planned Parenthood. profitable health care.

“This is an important victory in the movement to protect legal abortion in the South,” the non-profit Atlantic branch said on Twitter. “We, as well as our partners, will continue , with our fight to block any bill that would allow politicians to interfere with people’s private health care decisions.”

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Republican governor, Henry McMaster, dismissed the decision as a legal oversight, saying the decision went against the will of voters in the red state to some extent. big

“Our State Supreme Court has found a right in our Constitution that was never intended by the people of South Carolina. With this opinion, it is clear that the Court has exceeded its authority,” he wrote on Twitter.

The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Abortion Protection Act was first approved in February 2021, with Republicans calling the bill a “tremendous victory” for what they consider “unborn” children. .

“If this is upheld by the courts, we will have saved thousands of lives in South Carolina every year,” said Shane Massey, majority leader of the state Senate.

The Act required patients seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound to determine what the law called a “fetal heartbeat”. If such activity was found, the abortion could not proceed, except in cases of emergency, incest or danger to the life of the parent.

But doctors and abortion rights advocates have disputed terms like “fetal heartbeat”, saying that the flickers caught on ultrasound in the early weeks of pregnancy are not heartbeats. but electrical activity in cells that become heart tissue.

They also point out that electric shocks can be detected as early as six weeks, before many people realize they are pregnant. That rationale was echoed in Thursday’s South Carolina Supreme Court decision.

“Six weeks is not a reasonable amount of time,” the court’s majority wrote in its opinion, citing the time it takes for a parent to realize they are pregnant and take action to obtain an abortion. He described the ban as an “unreasonable invasion of privacy”.

But the rule was narrow. The majority opinion meant that the state could still restrict access to abortion, as long as it was protected under the state’s right to privacy.

“Undoubtedly the State has the authority to limit the right to privacy that protects women from having their decision influenced,” the decision explained.

South Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban remains in effect, a state law that preceded the fetal heartbeat act.

The six-week ban had faced several legal challenges after it was signed into law in 2021 by Governor McMaster, who predicted defending the legislation would be an “uphill battle”. A judge suspended the ban on the second day it was in effect.

States like Georgia, Ohio and Iowa have also tried to enact their own “fetal heartbeat” laws, but they too face legal challenges. In November, Georgia’s state supreme court voted to reinstate its “fetal heartbeat” law while considering a lower court ruling striking down the ban, forcing some Advocates of the case called “legal ping-pong”.

Republican support for such a ban prompted attorneys general from 21 states — including Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Montana and Texas — to file an amicus brief in support of South Carolina’s law in March 2022.

But the landscape of abortion access in the US changed in June, as the US Supreme Court decided to overturn the landmark precedent set in Roe v Wade in 1973, to h -effectively ending the constitutional right to abortion access at the federal level.

The decision of the US Supreme Court – in a case known as Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization – put the question of abortion rights back in the hands of the state.

A few days after Dobbs’ decision was handed down, on June 27 of last year, South Carolina’s six-week ban went back into effect.

“Once Roe v Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court,” explained then-Attorney General Alan Wilson, “there was no longer any basis for blocking the heartbeat law.” South Carolina”.

The South Atlantic chapter of Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit the following month, arguing that the ban violated the state constitution. But lawyers for the state of South Carolina argued that the right to privacy was intended to protect against illegal “search and seizure” and did not apply to abortion.

The South Carolina Supreme Court is believed to be the first court to issue a final ruling on the constitutionality of abortion under state law in the months following the Dobbs decision.

Therefore, his decision on Thursday has attracted national attention, including the administration of US President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

“We are encouraged by the South Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling today on the state’s extreme and dangerous abortion ban,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote on Twitter. women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies.”

But US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican representing South Carolina, denounced the decision as a “legal campaign”. He has previously advocated for a nationwide ban on 15-week abortions.

“I find it hard to believe that the framers of the South Carolina Constitution intended any provision to stop elected officials from interfering with laws that protect the unborn,” he wrote Thursday.

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