SC High Court Overturns State's 6-Week Abortion Ban
The South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on abortion after six weeks. On Jan. 5, 2023, the court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it violated the right to privacy.
In the 3-2 decision, Justice Kaye Hearn wrote the "state constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion."
"Few decisions in life are more private than the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy. Our privacy right must be implicated by restrictions on that decision," she added.
Hearn is the only woman serving on the South Carolina Supreme Court and only the second woman to have served on the court since it was established in 1841.
Under this new ruling, people can legally get an abortion in South Carolina up until about 20 weeks of pregnancy or the gestational age of 22 weeks. The decision also means abortions are more accessible to people in surrounding states, creating a haven for abortion seekers in a region often associated with hostility toward abortion rights.
The decision comes nearly two years after the state established the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, which banned abortions after cardiac activity was detected except in limited cases, such as pregnancies that were the result of rape. It comes nearly seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, which previously guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion in the United States for roughly 50 years.
Amid heated legislative feuds over abortion rights erupting around the country, the South Carolina ruling marks a significant victory for abortion rights advocates, according to some organizations. In a statement, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York City, called the decision an "immense victory" for the entire South.
"The court justly rejected this insidious attempt to take away South Carolinians' fundamental rights under the state's constitution," Northup said. "These radical bans have wreaked havoc across the South and Midwest, but today's decision means that the right to make deeply personal healthcare decisions will remain protected in South Carolina, an immense victory for South Carolinians and the entire region."
On Twitter, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised the decision.
We are encouraged by South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruling today on the state’s extreme and dangerous abortion ban. Women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies.— Karine Jean-Pierre (@PressSec) January 5, 2023
"We are encouraged by South Carolina's Supreme Court ruling today on the state's extreme and dangerous abortion ban," she tweeted. "Women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies."
Meanwhile, South Carolina Republicans have said they will continue efforts to limit abortions. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster suggested a new abortion measure will be a focus during the upcoming legislative session.
"With this opinion, the court has clearly exceeded its authority," the governor said in a statement reported by the Associated Press. "The people have spoken through their elected representatives multiple times on this issue. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to correct this error."