The bill, signed Thursday, bans abortion once heart activity can be detected with ultrasound, except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger. Jeffrey Collins / AP Hide caption
Jeffrey Collins / AP
Jeffrey Collins / AP
Just a day after Governor Henry McMaster signed a law banning most abortions in South Carolina, a federal court blocked the move.
U.S. District Court judge Mary Geiger Lewis issued a two-week restraining order Friday as the Planned Parenthood-initiated case finds its way through the legal system.
The “Fetal Heartbeat and Abortion Protection Act in South Carolina” would prohibit abortion as soon as ultrasound can detect heart activity. The only exceptions would be rape, incest, or when a mother’s life is in danger.
This leaves a time window of around five to six weeks to legally terminate a pregnancy. This often happens before a patient realizes she is pregnant. Doctors who perform the procedure after this time will be charged with criminal offenses.
Planned parenting and a women’s clinic in Greenville filed the emergency lawsuit, arguing it would make abortion inaccessible to most South Carolinians.
A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for March 9th.
In court documents, Planned Parenthood said that “the restraining order was required in part because more than 75 women are expected to have abortions in the state in the next three days and most of them would be banned under the new law,” the Associated Press reported.
Our President @jennycblack on the verdict:
“Today abortion is safe and legal in South Carolina, and politicians’ plan to restrict access to health care has failed. @Henrymcmaster: South Carolinians need a COVID-19 plan, not an abortion ban.” (1/2)
– PP South Atlantic SC (@PPSATSC) February 19, 2021
“Today, abortion is safe and legal in South Carolina, and politicians’ plan to restrict access to health care has failed,” said Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, in a statement.
Black added, “As the leading provider of reproductive health care in the state, including abortion, our doors are open to the South Carolinians who depend on us every day.”
Before signing the bill on Thursday, the governor said, “If there is no right to life, what are the rights?”
McMaster said before the bill was signed, “What are your rights if not the basic, fundamental, profound right to life?”
And on Friday, McMaster added, “As I said, we will defend this law every step of the way. No lawsuit can weaken our resolve to fight for life.”
The attorney general said, “We believe the Heartbeat Act is constitutional and deserves a strong defense in the US Supreme Court if necessary,” USA Today reported.
Several other states have passed similar laws in recent years, which have also been challenged in court.
Opponents of abortion rights hope that one of these laws will find its way to the Supreme Court and challenge the Roe v Wade precedent that legalized abortion.
Sarah McCammon of NPR contributed to this report.