A South Carolina judge on Friday temporarily blocked a new law restricting abortion access after six weeks of pregnancy.
The order came just one day after Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, signed the six-week ban into law, and temporarily restores abortion access in the state to up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Greenville Women’s Clinic — an abortion provider in South Carolina — and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic sued the state shortly after Mr. McMaster signed the law.
“The status quo should be maintained” until the Supreme Court can weigh in, said Judge Clifton Newman in his order blocking the new ban. “It’s going to end up there.”
Why It Matters
South Carolina has become an important access point for abortion in the South as other states in the region have banned the procedure.
“Our doors remain open, and we are here to provide compassionate and judgment-free health care to all South Carolinians,” said Jenny Black, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
South Carolina legislators struggled for months to come to an agreement on an abortion ban after the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the national right to abortion. Republicans fought over how far a ban should go, and what exceptions to allow.
Three Republican women were part of a group of legislators who had tried to block a near-total ban.
The ban that finally passed prohibits most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and requires any woman seeking an abortion to first have two in-person doctor’s visits and two ultrasounds.
The law allows exceptions for victims of rape and incest, and in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities or where the woman’s life and health are at risk, but those exceptions are only available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The ban is similar to an earlier six-week ban overturned by the State Supreme Court last year, known as a heartbeat bill, because cardiac activity can be detected around that time.
The court ruled that the South Carolina Constitution provides a right to privacy that includes the right to abortion.
“While I respect Judge Newman’s decision, I remain convinced that the heartbeat bill is constitutional and that the Supreme Court will agree,” said the Senate’s president, Thomas Alexander, a Republican.
The case now heads to the State Supreme Court.
Republican legislators said they made changes in the new law to address the court’s objections to the previous law.
There has also been a change to the court that some feel might work in their favor: The justice who wrote the January decision was the only woman on the court. She has since retired and was replaced by a man, making South Carolina the only state with an all-male high court.