SC abortion law being contested in the courthouse and the State House

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Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 6:58 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Questions about access to abortions are currently being considered and debated in both the courthouse and the State House in South Carolina.

While those proceedings are still far from the finish line, the landscape across the country and the state has drastically shifted following the US Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade near the end of June.

Up to that point, abortions had been legal in South Carolina at up to 20 weeks.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, reversing the nationwide access to abortion guaranteed for nearly 50 years by the Roe decision, cleared the way for South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban to kick into effect.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster had signed that law, the “Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” in February 2021, but federal courts had blocked it for more than a year until the Dobbs decision allowed its enforcement to begin at the end of June.

The law prohibits most abortions after around six weeks, the time opponents argue many women do not yet know they are pregnant. It does allow exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, life and health of the mother, and fetal anomalies.

But last month, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic and two doctors filed a lawsuit challenging that law again, this time in state court, aiming to make the procedure legal through 20 weeks once more. They contend this law violates the guaranteed rights in the state constitution to privacy and equal protection, though the state defendants have responded, those protections do not cover abortions.

Last week, a judge transferred that lawsuit over to the South Carolina Supreme Court at the state’s request, and at this point, it is up to that court to decide if it will take up the case.

In the meantime, the six-week ban remains in effect.

As that law is being fought over in court, again, it is very likely to soon change at the State House and become more restrictive.

The South Carolina House of Representatives has taken the lead, with a panel of lawmakers hearing several hours of testimony last month and later issuing its recommendations for a new law.

Among them, the committee suggested South Carolina ban nearly all abortions, with the procedure only allowed in very limited circumstances when the mother’s life is at risk and not permitted if the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault.

The House Judiciary Committee will next take up those recommendations, expected in the next few weeks, and advance a bill to the House floor for debate.

In the other chamber of the State House, the Senate has just announced its first meeting on abortion following Roe’s overturn.

The Senate Medical Affairs Committee will hear public testimony for the first time on the issue in two weeks, during a meeting scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Aug. 17 in Columbia.

All 100 spots to speak at that hearing had been filled within a few hours of the meeting being publicly announced Monday, and people will not be allowed to testify virtually.

But anyone who wants to weigh in on where South Carolina’s abortion law goes next can still do so.

They send written testimony or personal videos to smedicomm@scsenate.gov, or they can mail written testimony to this address:

Senate Medical Affairs Committee

Attn: Research Director

P.O. Box 142

Gressette Building 412

Columbia, SC 29202

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