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Reproductive rights advocates protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on November 1, 2021. (Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Advocates Welcome Temporary Block on South Carolina's 6-Week Abortion Ban

"Today's decision is a huge relief for people who desperately need abortion care in South Carolina right now," said one reproductive rights lawyer.

Brett Wilkins

Reproductive freedom advocates welcomed a Wednesday decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court temporarily blocking the state's six-week abortion ban while justices consider a legal challenge to the contested law.

"The fight to restore bodily autonomy to the people of South Carolina is far from over."

All five sitting justices on the state's highest court signed Wednesday's injunction, which allows South Carolina clinics to offer abortion services up to 20 weeks of pregnancy—the previous legal limit before Republican-led state lawmakers passed the six-week ban last year—while a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women's Clinic, and two physicians is litigated.

Planned Parenthood operates the only abortion clinics in South Carolina and does not perform the procedure after the first trimester, or about 14 weeks, according to the Greenville News.

The South Carolina justices wrote that although the U.S. Supreme Court voided the constitutional right to abortion in June's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, "at this preliminary stage, we are unable to determine with finality the constitutionality of the [six-week ban] under our state's constitutional prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy."

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic president and CEO Jenny Block said in a statement that "we applaud the court's decision to protect the people of South Carolina from this cruel law that interferes with a person's private medical decision."

"For more than six weeks, patients have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for an abortion or suffer the life-altering consequences of forced pregnancy," she added. "Today the court has granted our patients a welcome reprieve, but the fight to restore bodily autonomy to the people of South Carolina is far from over."

South Carolina's law is a so-called "fetal heartbeat" ban, a concept experts say is scientifically and legally dubious since what's being detected in a six-week-old embryo is little more than cells and electrical activity. The law contains exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, as well as in cases of fetal abnormalities or when the pregnant person's life is in danger.

Genevieve Scott, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that "today's decision is a huge relief for people who desperately need abortion care in South Carolina right now."

"Many have been panicking for far too long as they try to figure out where they can turn to for services, if at all," she continued. "This unjust ban is incredibly dangerous and jeopardizes people's health and well-being."

"People should not have to question if and how they can access the essential healthcare they need," Scott added. "We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to fight for and protect South Carolinians' fundamental right to abortion."

South Carolina Republicans expressed disappointment with Wednesday's injunction, while GOP state lawmakers advanced a fresh near-total abortion ban without exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Another bill under consideration in the state Legislature would criminalize the online sharing of information about obtaining abortions and, according to some journalists, could even be used to silence stories related to reproductive rights.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in North Carolina on Wednesday reinstated that state's 20-week abortion ban effective immediately, a decision Planned Parenthood Action called an "egregious overstep by the court" that compels people seeking the procedure "to travel out of state for care or be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will."

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