A South Carolina judge on Friday temporarily blocked a new law restricting access to abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
The order came just one day after Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, signed the six-week ban into law temporarily restoring access to abortion in the state 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 into law.
“The status quo must be maintained” until the Supreme Court can weigh in, Judge Clifton Newman said in his order to block the new ban. “That’s where it ends.”
Why it matters
South Carolina has become a major entry 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 healthcare to all South Carolinians,” said Jenny Black, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
Lawmakers in South Carolina struggled for months to agree on an abortion ban after the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade and struck down the state’s 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 lawmakers who had tried to block a near-total ban.
The ban that was eventually passed bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and requires any woman seeking an abortion to first undergo two in-person doctor visits and two ultrasounds.
The law allows for exceptions for victims of rape and incest, and in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities or when the woman’s life and health are in danger, but those exceptions are only available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The ban is similar to an earlier six-week ban overturned last year by the state Supreme Court, known as a heartbeat bill, because heart activity can be detected around that time.
The court ruled that the South Carolina constitution provides a right to privacy, including the right to an abortion.
“While I respect Judge Newman’s decision, I remain convinced that the heartbeat law is constitutional and that the Supreme Court will concur,” said Senate President Thomas Alexander, a Republican.
The case now goes to the state Supreme Court.
Republican lawmakers said they made changes to the new law to address the court’s objections to the previous law.
There’s also a court change that some say could work in their favor: The judge who wrote January’s 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 Supreme Court Justice.