South Carolina’s new abortion law delayed pending state Supreme Court review : NPR

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South Carolina Assistant Attorney General Thomas Hydrick argues during a hearing in Columbia on Friday that a judge should not halt enforcement of the state’s new abortion law.

Jeffrey Collins/AP

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Jeffrey Collins/AP

South Carolina Assistant Attorney General Thomas Hydrick argues during a hearing in Columbia on Friday that a judge should not halt enforcement of the state’s new abortion law.

Jeffrey Collins/AP

COLUMBIA, SC — A judge put South Carolina’s new law banning most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy on hold Friday until the state Supreme Court can review it the measure, and gives temporary relief to suppliers in a region that enacted strict limits on the procedure.

Judge Clifton Newman’s decision to set back the state’s abortion law by about 20 weeks came about 24 hours after Gov. Henry McMaster signed the bill without notice, which he had left dozens of people seek abortion in limbo and created the potential for a legal law. abortion becomes illegal as performed by a doctor.

“It’s extraordinarily difficult not only for the women themselves, but for their doctors — not just the Planned Parenthood doctors — but hospitals all over the state who need to figure out what to do in an emergency,” Vicki Ringer said. , spokesperson for Planned. Parents in South Carolina.

The developments in South Carolina are a microcosm of what has happened across the country since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade a year ago, which allowed states to decide their own abortion laws and leave patients scrambling to find care wherever they can in situations where weeks or even days can make a big difference.

South Carolina’s measure joins tough limitations pending in North Carolina and Florida, states that have been holdouts in the South on providing wider access to the procedure, and threaten to further delay abortions as appointments pile up. in the region.

The state saw the number of abortions rise sharply as other southern states passed near-total bans. Before the overturning of Roe, less than 1 in 10 abortions in South Carolina were performed on people who lived outside the state. Now, that figure is close to 50% and the number of abortions each month has at least tripled, according to state health data.

The law passed Tuesday by the General Assembly is similar to a ban on abortion once cardiac activity can be detected that lawmakers passed in 2021. The state Supreme Court ruled in a 3-2 decision that the 2021 law violated the state constitution’s right to privacy.

Legislative leaders said the new law makes technical tweaks that should prevent at least one justice from changing his mind.

But Newman said it was not his role to figure out if this would be successful.

“The status quo should be maintained until the Supreme Court reviews its decision,” Newman said. “It will end there.”

Planned Parenthood sued immediately after the law took effect Thursday, saying South Carolina abortion clinics were inundated with canceled appointments from more pregnant patients and doctors were forced carefully review the new regulations on the fly.

The abortion rights group said the new law was so similar to the old one that clinics and women seeking care would be harmed if it was allowed to remain in place. held pending a full court review.

Almost all of the 75 women with abortion appointments over the next few days appeared to be past six weeks, Planned Parenthood attorney Kathleen McDaniel said.

“There’s irreputable harm. It’s happening. It’s already happened,” McDaniel said.

The majority opinion in the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling that struck down the 2021 law said that although lawmakers have the authority to protect life, the privacy clause in the constitution of the state ultimately gives women time to determine whether they want to have an abortion and many women do not. I do not know that they are pregnant six weeks after conception.

Justice Kaye Hearn wrote the opinion. She has since retired due to turning 72 and was replaced by a man, making South Carolina the only high court in the country without a woman on the bench.

“I would say nothing in the law has changed,” McDaniel said. “The only thing that has changed is that there is no longer a woman in the Supreme Court.”

The changes in the new law are directed at another justice in the majority, John Few, who wrote his own opinion said that the 2021 law was poorly written because the legislators did not show that it did any work to determine if six weeks was enough time for a woman to know she was pregnant.

A few suggested that he would find a stricter blanket ban on abortion constitutional, saying that if a fetus had all the rights of a person, then a ban would be like child abuse or rape laws that do not violate privacy rights.

Advocates for the state based on hope Few will change his vote

“We strongly urge the court to review that decision carefully, to understand that it focuses on one law, the 2021 act,” said assistant state attorney general Thomas Hydrick. But, he said, the new law is a good faith attempt to correct the flaws that the legislators saw in how the judges interpreted the 2021 law.

Newman said this is outside his role as a lower court judge. “Am I being asked to remove the Supreme Court?” he asked.

The legislators continued to say that they are confident that they have written a bill that this time will withstand the scrutiny of the high court.

“While I respect the decision of Judge Newman, I remain convinced that the heartbeat bill is constitutional and that the Supreme Court will agree,” said the President of the Senate of the state Republican Thomas Alexander in a statement.

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