Judge allows implementation of SC Fetal Heartbeat Act as lawsuit seeks to block the law
A South Carolina judge has given the state the go-ahead to continue implementing a law that limits abortion to about the first six weeks of pregnancy.
The judge's decision came in a hearing Tuesday for a lawsuit that challenges what’s called the Fetal Heartbeat Act.
“We, of course, were really hoping that the judge would decide to block the law while our case continues in the courts. That didn't happen today — and it's another blow to South Carolinians reproductive freedom.”— Molly Rivera of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic
The law bans abortion after cardiac activity is detected in a fetus — about six weeks — which opponents say is before many women know they are pregnant. The ruling doesn’t mean the end of the lawsuit, but it allows South Carolina to implement the law as the case continues.
“We, of course, were really hoping that the judge would decide to block the law while our case continues in the courts,” said Molly Rivera of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which filed the lawsuit. “That didn't happen today — and it's another blow to South Carolinians reproductive freedom.”
Rivera and abortion rights advocates say the law forces women to travel long distances to receive an abortion and disproportionately impacts low-income women because of other expenses that come with travel, such as gas and hotel rooms.
The judge also approved a motion for the case to go straight to the South Carolina State Supreme Court.
This comes as the South Carolina legislature is considering outlawing abortion, except when the life of a woman is at risk. The legislation would also make it illegal to help people access an abortion out of state including providing such information on websites. A House committee passed the legislation last week. It’s now before the House Judiciary Committee.
The law at issue in Tuesday’s hearing was passed in February 2021, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. A federal judge blocked the law from taking effect, but that changed after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“The legislature insists on taking away health care from people, that will only lead to worse health outcomes for everybody in the state of South Carolina,” Rivera said.
She said that Planned Parenthood South Atlantic treated almost 100 people from South Carolina last month in their other locations in North Carolina and Virginia.