South Carolina’s 6-week ban can continue for now, court rules

COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina can continue enforcing its six-week abortion ban after a judge on Tuesday denied a request to temporarily block it amid a legal battle that is now headed to the state Supreme Court.

since the US Supreme Court ended the federal right to the procedure last month, abortion rights advocates in conservative states have turned to state constitutions as they seek to protect abortion access. Action has returned to the state level in wake of the ruling in a Mississippi case that overturned Roe vs. Wade, a case that originated in Dallas County, as courts and legislatures are deluged with legal challenges and new proposals.

Supreme Court ends half-century of abortion rights, overturns Roe v. Wade

Much of the action this week focuses on Indiana, where thousands of people argue the abortion issue surrounded the Indiana statehouse and filled its corridors Monday as lawmakers began consideration of a Republican proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state. Vice President Kamala Harris denied the effort during a meeting with Democratic legislators.

Also this week, lawmakers in West Virginia’s Republican majority are hurrying to advance legislation that would ban abortion in the state with few exceptions. The bill bars abortion in almost all cases and makes performing the procedure a felony. Physicians who provide abortions can face three to 10 years in prison.

Harris said during a trip to Indianapolis that the abortion ban proposal reflects a health care crisis in the country. Despite the bill’s abortion ban language, anti-abortion activists lined up before a legislative committee to argue that the bill wasn’t strict enough and lacked enforcement teeth.

Indiana is one of the first Republican-run state legislatures to debate tighter abortion laws following the US Supreme Court decision last month overturning Roe vs. Wade. The Supreme Court ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and other plaintiffs had asked the judge for an injunction while their lawsuit challenging the ban moves through the courts. The lawsuit argues that the law violates the state constitution’s rights to privacy and equal protection.

State lawyers on Tuesday argued the significance of the issues raised and the need for a speedy trial made it necessary for the state Supreme Court to hear the case now.

Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning — who said this case raised the “most fundamentally important constitutional issue” he has seen — agreed and transferred the case. While the judge said Planned Parenthood could seek an injunction there, Planned Parenthood’s attorney Hannah Swanson argued that patients in South Carolina need more urgent action to protect their health and freedom.

“We need protection right now,” Planned Parenthood South Carolina Director of Public Affairs Vicki Ringer told reporters. “We need the constitution to do what it says it does: protect our right to privacy. And privacy begins with our bodies.”

South Carolina Deputy Solicitor General Thomas Hydrick on Tuesday argued that voters did not intend to cover abortion rights when they approved the state’s right to privacy in 1971.

Many state restrictions have increased in the South since the Supreme Court last month overturned the federal right to the procedure. A Georgia law banning most abortions once fetal cardiac activity is present — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — took effect last week.

In contrast to the South Carolina judge’s decision, a Louisiana judge ruled last week that three abortion clinics in that state can continue operating while a lawsuit goes through the courts. But Tuesday, five days after blocking enforcement of the ban, the same judge has denied a motion by state officials to suspend the ruling while they pursue an appeal.

Following the US Supreme Court’s recent decision to end constitutional protections for abortionaccess to abortion has been flickering in Louisiana, which is home to three clinics, including one in Shreveport that was visited regularly by women from North Texas seeking services now outlawed.

Amid the flurry of court challenges to the state’s near-total ban on abortions, the ban has taken effect twice and been blocked twice since last month’s Supreme Court ruling.

South Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature is on track to further restrict the procedure. A special committee last week advanced a proposal to ban almost all abortions, except when the mother’s life is at risk.

GOP Gov. Henry McMaster signed the six-week ban last year but a federal appeals court prevented it from taking effect in February. That hold lasted until the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

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