South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster received a historic anti-abortion bill and, with eight pens, signed it into law less than an hour later. However, within that same hour, Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit.
The South Carolina House passed the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act by a 79-35 vote. The new law prohibits a pregnant woman from having an abortion past the moment the unborn child’s heartbeat is detected, which is about six weeks after the moment of conception. The law also notes exceptions in the cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in jeopardy, and does not punish the mother if she were to get an illegal abortion, but rather the doctor who performed it.
Previously, South Carolina state law allowed abortion up to the 20-week mark—or later with rare exceptions—only if the woman had received state-directed counseling to discourage the procedure and then waited 24 more hours to receive it. According to the new law, a doctor would now also be required to check for a detectable fetal heartbeat with an ultrasound prior to the procedure.
Over 4,600 abortions were performed in South Carolina in 2018 and over 619,000 nationally.
“According to contemporary medical research, … as many as 30 percent of natural pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage[, but] fewer than five percent of all natural pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage after the detection of a fetal heartbeat,” the law reads. “The State of South Carolina has legitimate interests from the outset of a pregnancy in protecting the health of the pregnant woman and the life of the unborn child who may be born.”
Planned Parenthood’s suit claims that the law will create undue stress on low-income mothers who couldn’t travel out of South Carolina for an abortion procedure. Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, called the law, and ones like it, “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“The act would force patients to race to a health center for an abortion, even if they did not yet feel confident in their decision,” Katherine Farris, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, wrote in court papers.
During the lawsuit, the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act does not have effect at the request of Planned Parenthood, as Judge Mary Geiger Lewis will hold a more substantial hearing on March 9. Under the new law, 75 women who have abortion appointments over a three-day span in late Feb. would have their procedures illegalized, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights argued.
“There’s a lot of happy hearts beating across South Carolina right now,” McMaster stated.