SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – A ban on abortions after six weeks could be just days away from taking effect in South Carolina after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with a ruling on Friday, effectively striking down the prior federal injunction that prohibited the application of the law.
After the ruling, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster filed a motion to withdraw the federal injunction that had prevented the abortion fetal heartbeat protection law from becoming law in the state.
South Carolina law currently allows abortion procedures up to 28 weeks after pregnancy, primarily in the second trimester.
“The Fetal Heart Rate Act,” signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster last February, would ban abortions after about six weeks.
The law had been successfully challenged in federal court based on the argument that six weeks, in some cases, wouldn’t give a woman enough time to even know she was pregnant.
The six-week Fetal Heartbeat Act deadline is only an estimate of the time a woman has to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy in the state. The law states that “no person shall perform, induce, or attempt to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman until a physician has determined whether the human fetus that the pregnant woman is carrying has a detectable fetal heart rate.”
It would become a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if a heartbeat is detected under most circumstances. Anyone performing an abortion in violation of the law could spend up to two years in prison and be fined $10,000.
“Once a fetal heartbeat can be detected by doctors. [The Fetal Heartbeat Act] has exceptions for things like rape and incest. But for the most part, after six weeks, abortions would no longer be legal in this state,” said Kirk Randazzo, professor of political science and chair of the political science department at the University of South Carolina.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ preliminary injunction that blocked the Fetal Heartbeat Act could be lifted in the coming days.
“Once this legal notice is received, the lifting of the injunction, enforcement of this fetal heart rate bill will begin immediately,” Randazzo said.
Chronology of events
|February 18, 2021||Governor Henry McMaster signs fetal heart rate bill|
|February 18, 2021||Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic, along with co-owner and obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Terry L. Buffkin, representing his patients, are suing.|
|February 19, 2021||The South Carolina federal district court issues a temporary restraining order against the law, saying it is unconstitutional.|
|March 19, 2021||The South Carolina federal district court issued a preliminary injunction order that prevented the law from going into effect.|
|July 7, 2021||Governor McMaster and Other Defendants Appeal Federal District Court Preliminary Injunction on South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Act|
|February 23, 2022||The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upholds the lower court’s decision, blocking enforcement of South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat Act.|
|June 24, 2022||U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturns Roe v. Wade, removing federal jurisdiction over the law|
|June 24, 2022||Governor McMaster is seeking the removal of the preliminary injunction issued by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.|
The same day Governor McMaster signed the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, a group consisting of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and the Greenville Women’s Clinic filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the law from going into effect.
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic operate the only three abortion clinics in South Carolina.
Last year, the South Carolina federal district court granted a temporary restraining order on the law going into effect. This decision was appealed by the state, but the injunction was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
In its decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court essentially said there was no constitutional right to abortion, according to Randazzo.
The next step is either to lift the injunction by the Court of Appeal itself, or to [the appeals court] will refer that to the district court judge, but one of those two courts will issue a court order lifting the injunction, according to Randazzo.
A woman’s right to choose – most of the time
The organizations that sought the injunction against the Fetal Heartbeat Act argued that “patients don’t know they’re pregnant until six weeks or later, especially patients who have irregular menstrual cycles or are bleeding early in pregnancy, a common phenomenon that is frequently and easily mistaken for a period.Other patients may not develop or recognize symptoms of early pregnancy.
This could result in some women not knowing they are pregnant until the deadline for abortions in the state has passed, under the new law. Under these circumstances, abortion would effectively be illegal for women who find out they are pregnant late.
The Fetal Heartbeat Act requires doctors to perform an ultrasound on patients seeking an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, an abortion becomes illegal.
Constitutional rights in question
Previous bills introduced in the state Legislature have attempted to ban abortion altogether, but have not been passed by lawmakers, Randazzo said.
“But given the Supreme Court’s decision today, it’s entirely possible that these bills will be reintroduced next year, as there will likely be additional momentum for further restrictions,” he said. he declares.
“There are two points that I think are most interesting and potentially concerning. One is that the Supreme Court has generally acted in order to create a level playing field across the country, and today’s ruling really reverses that because the ruling says it’s now up to the states, which means that we will now have a patchwork of laws. . There will be 50 different laws that people will have to obey,” he said.
This is the first major retraction of constitutional rights we have ever seen in the United States, he said.
“[The U.S. Supreme Court ruling] said because abortion is not explicitly enshrined in the Constitution nor is it a right deeply rooted in our nation’s history, it had to be struck down,” he said.
“The question then becomes how to define what is deeply rooted in the nation’s history? Arguably, all of the rights granted to individuals by the Supreme Court after World War II, including all of the different aspects centered on the right to privacy, of which abortion was one, are now potentially questionable,” a said Randazzo.
“I think this will open the door to a tremendous number of additional lawsuits that will attempt to clarify what this ‘deeply rooted’ phrase in the nation’s history really means,” he said.