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Battle Over Abortion Bill in South Carolina Continues

July 8, 2021 by Ansley Puckett
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington. (Photo by Dan McCue)

COLUMBIA, S.C.- South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and others have appealed a federal court’s preliminary injunction preventing them implementing a ban on the abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat.

McMaster signed the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act on Feb. 18. 

Prior to that it received bipartisan approval by the S.C. General Assembly and passed by a vote of 30-13 in the state Senate and 79-35 in the House.  

The Fetal Heartbeat Bill requires an ultrasound for a detectable heartbeat before an abortion is performed and prohibits an abortion if a heartbeat is detected. If a person is found guilty of having an abortion that violates the bill, they could receive a prison sentence of up to two years or a $10,000 fine or both.  

McMaster argued at the time of signing that he and other South Carolinians had a duty to protect life.  

“As I’ve said before, the right to life is the most precious of rights and the most fragile. We must never let it be taken for granted or taken away. And we must protect life at every opportunity, regardless of cost or inconvenience,” McMaster said in a statement.  

Shortly after, abortion rights groups, including Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, P.A. filed a lawsuit claiming the law was unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis blocked enforcement of the law in March.

“Abortion is already severely restricted in South Carolina, and extreme bans like these are particularly harmful for people who cannot afford to travel long distances and who already face barriers to accessing health care due to discrimination, implicit biases and economic inequality,” the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a press release at the time of the bill.  

On Wednesday, McMaster filed an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging U.S. District Judge Mary Lewis’ March ruling.

One of the primary issues argued in the filing is that the plaintiffs lack the third-party constitutional standing and statutory standing necessary to bring suit against the law. 

The other argues the federal district court made a mistake in enjoining the entirety of the Fetal Heartbeat Bill by disregarding the Act’s severability clause and incorrectly imposing its views of the Act’s purposes. 

“While the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case related to Mississippi’s law offers great hope and promise for protecting the lives of the unborn, we must defend South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat Act against every challenge at every level,” McMaster said. 

McMaster said he and other defendants will continue to challenge and defend the merits of the Fetal Heartbeat Act at the district court level while the appeal is pending.  

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