After one day of passage, federal Judge Mary Geiger Lewis placed a 14-day restraining order on the law and plans to renew it until amore substantial hearing on March 9th.
The law, titled “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act” restricts abortion at the detection of fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many know they are pregnant.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed the bill into law last Thursday, within the hour it was sent to his desk, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued before the governor even signed.
Judge Geiger Lewis’ restraining order was necessary because more than 75 patients were scheduled to have abortions in South Carolina in the last three days and the new law would ban most of them from receiving abortion care.
South Carolina’s ban is one of dozens of examples of state legislatures attempting or succeeding at passing laws to target abortion access and overturn Roe v. Wade. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, in the last two months, state politicians have introduced more than 200 bills to restrict or ban abortion, with more than 40% seeking to ban abortion at various points of pregnancy.
If this law were to remain intact, it would disproportionately impact low-income people, whose socioeconomic status limits their ability to access abortion care in other states. The burden would fall most severely on African American patients, who also experience the highest level of maternal mortality.
Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated, “we are relieved but not surprised that the court will block this law. This ban is blatantly unconstitutional. It’s a clear attempt to end abortion access not just in South Carolina but nationwide. Lawmakers are trying to send cases to the Supreme Court that will allow the justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. This attack on Roe is not slowing down — there are many similar bans moving through state legislatures at this very moment.”
Similarly, Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO at Planned Parenthood Federation of America stated that “this court ruling will offer a temporary moment of relief for South Carolinians. But make no mistake: Politicians across the country have made it clear they won’t stop until abortion access is completely out of reach. Since Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court, we are seeing an onslaught of attacks, with abortion bans pending in 30 states. The fight to preserve what little abortion access is left intensifies by the day. Planned Parenthood and our partners will not back down. Every person deserves access to safe, legal abortion — regardless of who you are, how much you earn, or where you live.”
Sources: AP News 2/19/21; NPR 2/19/21; CNN 2/19/21; Center for Reproductive Rights 2/19/21