South Carolina’s 6-Week Abortion Ban Enacted, Providers File Lawsuit

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a six-week abortion ban on Thursday, which will take effect immediately. The new ban prohibits all abortions after detection of fetal heart activity, which usually occurs at six weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions, according to the ban.

“With my signature, the Fetal Heart Rate and Abortion Protection Act is now law and will immediately begin saving the lives of unborn children,” McMaster said. “This is a great day for life in South Carolina, but the fight is not over. We stand ready to defend this legislation against all challenges and are confident that we will succeed. The right to life must be preserved. , and we will do everything we can to protect him.”

Abortion providers Planned Parenthood and Greenville Women’s Clinic have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban and seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent enforcement.

“Abortion providers asked a state trial court to block Section 474 on the grounds that it violates the constitutional rights of South Carolinians to privacy, equal protection and due process. prohibiting abortion, providing inadequate health protections for patients, conditioning sexual assault survivors’ access to abortion on disclosing their personal information to law enforcement, breaking the law Medicaid and the improper targeting of Planned Parenthood through an unconstitutional bill,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a written statement Thursday evening that South Carolina’s “extreme and dangerous” ban on abortions over the past six weeks “will criminalize providers of health care and lead to delays and denials of health and life-saving care”.

“South Carolina’s ban will cut abortion access for women in the state and those across the region for whom South Carolina is the closest care option,” Jean said. -Rock.

McMaster signed a previous so-called “heartbeat ban” into law in 2021, but it was overturned by the state Supreme Court in January.

Fifteen states have stopped nearly all abortion services since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, ending federal abortion rights protections.

Governor Henry McMaster speaks to the media after Brian Gaines was sworn in as Comptroller General of South Carolina at the South Carolina State House Friday, May 11, 2023.

Joshua Boucher/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Under the new ban, abortions are permitted to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, to prevent the serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, in cases of rape and incest and if the fetus presents a fatal abnormality, according to the prohibition. The exception does not include psychological and emotional conditions.

Conditions listed under the exception include molar pregnancy, partial molar pregnancy, impaired ovum, ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, placental abruption, severe physical maternal trauma, uterine rupture, intrauterine fetal death and miscarriage, according to the bill.

Anyone who violates the ban is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined $10,000, jailed for up to two years, or both. Doctors or healthcare providers found guilty of performing illegal abortions will also have their licenses revoked.

Planned Parenthood said, along with its partners, it was prepared to challenge the ban in court.

“Abortion is already hard to access in South Carolina, with only three abortion clinics in the state and a series of access limitations imposed by state lawmakers. South Carolina ranks 43rd – in the bottom 10 of any state – with the highest maternal mortality rate. Women here are three times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than the average American woman,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

PHOTO: Abortion rights activists await the arrival of state lawmakers ahead of a Senate vote on banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy at the South Carolina Statehouse on May 23, 2023 in Columbia, SC

Abortion rights activists await the arrival of state lawmakers before a Senate vote on banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy at the South Carolina Statehouse on May 23, 2023 in Columbia, SC

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

‘Senator sisters’ fight ban

A group of five female senators, the only five in the legislature, fought against the bill. The group, which has adopted the term “senator sisters,” told ABC News that a short week’s vacation near the end of the legislative session would be when the men would “shove it down our throats.”

Even before the vote, they felt a clandestine deal had been struck to get it through. After three attempts, the senators’ filibuster failed to prevent the bill from passing.

“Women make up 51% of South Carolina’s population. [but hold] only 14% of the General Assembly and even less than in the Senate. What I believe is that women are going to show up at the polls,” said Senator Sandy Senn.

The group of women is very different — three Republicans, one Democrat, and one independent — but they are all religious mothers who are certain that this bill passed in the state Senate would be bad for women in the state. . None of them considered themselves women’s rights activists or feminists and they all called themselves “pro-life”.

“We all believe in life. We believe in the life of the woman as well as the life of the child,” Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews told ABC News.

They needed two men to vote with them on Tuesday to block the ban, but one of their former allies had turned black, which they knew was not a good sign.

Abortion options for women in the Deep South are now rapidly closing, with Florida’s six-week ban soon awaiting a court ruling and North Carolina’s 12-week ban taking effect.

What’s in the ban?

Women will need to have in-person medical appointments before they can have an abortion.

Under the ban, pregnant women cannot be criminally prosecuted or face civil liability for violating the ban.

If the fetus is alive in utero, doctors are required to make reasonable efforts to preserve the life of the unborn child, provided it does not pose a risk to the health of pregnant women, according to the bill. Entities that violate this rule will be fined up to $50,000, according to the bill.

According to the bill, doctors who perform abortions under the health exceptions must explain why they think the woman is eligible for the exception in her medical records.

PHOTO: Protesters gather with signs and placards in the lobby of the South Carolina Statehouse, May 16, 2023, in Columbia, SC

Protesters gather with signs and signs in the lobby of the South Carolina Statehouse, May 16, 2023, in Columbia, SC

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Abortions performed under the rape and incest exceptions must report it to the sheriff of the county in which the abortion was performed within 24 hours. Physicians should inform the patient that they will report the rape before the abortion is performed.

Physicians are also required to keep a copy of patient records for seven years after an abortion has been performed under the exception. Failure to do so would be a felony of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the doctor, according to the bill.

Pregnant women on whom an abortion is performed in violation of the law may seek actual and punitive damages against the offender.

ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

ABC News

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