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South Carolina's high court blocks state's six-week abortion ban

 UPI News logo: MainLogo UPI News 8/18/2022 Darryl Coote

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- South Carolina's Supreme Court blocked the state's near-total abortion ban on Wednesday as legislators consider imposing even stricter measures against the controversial medical practice in the Palmetto State.

The state's high court unanimously decided to award South Carolinian abortion providers a temporary injunction against Senate Bill 1, which was passed in 2021 but went into effect on June 27 banning the medical procedure once fetal cardiac activity is detected.

Fetal cardiac activity generally occurs at about the six-week mark of a pregnancy, and before most people know they are pregnant.

The ban includes exceptions for pregnancies that threaten the pregnant person's life or are the result of rape or incest but those exceptions only apply if the physician reports the alleged crime and their patient's name and contact information within 24 hours of the abortion to the local sheriff despite what the patient may want.

Abortion-rights activists and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund hold a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court, where more than 50 were detained, as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson takes her oath of office in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 30, 2022. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI © Bonnie Cash/UPI Abortion-rights activists and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund hold a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court, where more than 50 were detained, as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson takes her oath of office in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 30, 2022. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

The court said that by granting a temporarily injunction it was not taking a stance on the merits of the petitioners' case but was seeking to maintain "the status quo" to prevent possible irreparable harm as litigation.

Jenny Black, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which was one of the petitioners in the case along with Greenville Women's Clinic, said the temporary injunction allows them to return to providing their patients with the medical assistance they require.

"For more than six weeks, patients have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for an abortion or suffer the life-altering consequences of forced pregnancy," Black said in a statement. "Today, the court has granted our patients a welcome reprieve, but the fight to restore bodily autonomy to the people of South Carolina is far from over."

The six-week abortion ban was first passed by local legislators in February 2021 and took immediate effect, but was fast shelved by a federal court that said it violated the due process rights of patients as supported by the 1973 Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Following the high court's June 24 decision to repeal that landmark ruling, a federal court days late granted South Carolina's emergency motion to allow the six-week abortion ban to go into immediate effect.

On July 13, the abortion providers sued, stating the ban violates South Carolina's Constitution for providing inadequate protections for patients' health and by conditioning sexual assault survivors' access to abortion on disclosing personal information to law enforcement.

In its Wednesday decision, the court said the South Carolina ban may be in violation of the state's constitution.

"At this preliminary stage, we are unable to determine with finality the constitutionality of the Act under our state's constitutional prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy," it said.

It added that another reason for its injunction is that South Carolina codified the framework of Roe vs. Wade into its constitution in 1974, and despite the Supreme Court's decision earlier this summer it "necessarily follows that the codification of Roe ... remains part of the public policy of this state."

The assembly also elected to retain the codification of the landmark ruling when ratifying the 2021 abortion ban law, it said.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said they will continue to fight for the ban.

"While we are disappointed, it's important to point out this is a temporary injunction," he said in a statement. "The court didn't rule on the constitutionality of the Fetal Heartbeat law."

While the state's high court was making its decision, state legislators were considering a bill that would ban abortion without exceptions for rape or incest.

Testimony was limited to the first 100 people to sign up to speak before legislators Wednesday on the Equal Protection at Conception -- No Exceptions --Act.

 

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