South Carolina’s all-male Supreme Court has upheld a stringent 6-week abortion ban, echoing a trend of increased abortion restrictions in the Southeast and igniting debate on reproductive rights. As GOP-controlled states adopt similar bans, the landscape for reproductive health access is rapidly shifting.
A Blow to Abortion Access in the Southeast
The state’s newly appointed all-male Supreme Court upheld a 6-week abortion ban in a 4-1 ruling, dealing another blow to abortion access in the Southeast.
The Only Woman on South Carolina Supreme Court Retired
The ruling comes after Republican state lawmakers replaced Justice Kaye Hearn, the only woman on the South Carolina Supreme Court, retired due to the state’s imposed age limit.
South Carolina Is the Latest State to Get Hit by Abortion Restrictions
Florida and South Carolina, which have long been considered safe pockets for those seeking abortion in the Southeastern United States, have been hit hard by a wave of enacted abortion restrictions.
South Carolina Providers Stop Their Services
Abortion providers in South Carolina have mostly paused their services, even though the ban is yet to go into effect.
Independent clinics and hospitals have already turned away dozens of patients who are now facing a tough road to access places that provide abortion services as they have to travel hundreds of miles.
Planned Parenthood Can No Longer Help
The Planned Parenthood South Atlantic clinic in Columbia had served only a “handful” of the roughly 30 patients scheduled for abortions Wednesday when the ruling came down, said Dr. Katherine Farris, the group’s chief medical officer.
Abortions Have Been Paused
The center has paused abortions as the organization works out the implications of the ruling.
The South Has Some of the Worst Abortion Restrictions in the U.S.
Abortion rights are largely restricted in most of the South, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas and further north in West Virginia. Georgia has a 6-week abortion ban.
South Carolina Follows Suit
South Carolina followed suit when the state governor signed a bill banning most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy earlier this year.
2021 Ban Was Ruled Unconstitutional
The new abortion ban in South Carolina is an amendment of the 2021 version, which was ruled unconstitutional after it was passed for violating the state constitution’s right to privacy rule.
The 2023 law restricts most abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, as it says it happens about six weeks after a pregnant woman’s last period.
Still an Embryo at 6 Weeks
South Carolina Lawmakers defined this as “the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart, within the gestational sac.”
Chief Justice Donald Beatty, who cast the lone “no” vote in the ruling, said that the fetus doesn’t exist yet at six weeks, as it’s still an embryo. He also said that the heart doesn’t develop until later in pregnancy.
Cardiac Activity Is Not a Heartbeat
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it’s inaccurate to call such “cardiac activity” a heartbeat.
“The terminology is medically and scientifically inaccurate. As such, it is the quintessential example of political gaslighting; attempting to manipulate public opinion and control the reproductive health decisions of women by distorting reality,” Beatty wrote.
Women’s Right of Bodily Autonomy Takes a Backseat
Justice John Kittredge, who wrote for the new supermajority, ultimately admitted that the 2023 law infringes on “a woman’s right of privacy and bodily autonomy,” but said the state legislature determined this time around that those interests don’t outweigh “the interest of the unborn child to live.”
Abortion Rights Are Threatened Across GOP-Controlled States
After The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that provided nationwide access to abortion, many GOP-controlled states have adopted or already enacted abortion bans, which have been challenged in court.
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