Judge halts South Carolina fetal heartbeat abortion ban after Planned Parenthood sues

A federal judge on Friday temporarily halted South Carolina’s law banning most abortions if fetal heartbeats are detected roughly 24 hours after it was signed by the governor.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis placed a two-week temporary restraining order on the law ahead of a March 9 hearing that will determine a preliminary injunction.

Planned Parenthood on Thursday announced a federal lawsuit against the state, which questioned the bill’s constitutionality, saying that the measure would overturn “the constitutional right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade.” The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, which bans abortions if providers detect a heartbeat on an ultrasound excluding cases of rape, incest, and physical danger to the mother, was signed into law by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster on Thursday.

The bill passed the House, with a 79-35 vote on Wednesday, and the Senate on Jan. 28, with a 30-13 vote. Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health organization and the largest provider of abortions in the United States, had to halt the controversial procedure in the Palmetto State for a day but is on track to resume them.

“If South Carolina politicians truly cared about the quality of life for women and children, they would get to work to expedite the vaccine rollout, expand Medicaid, and address the dangerously high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality in the state,” Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement announcing the litigation, adding that the measure “posed a serious threat to South Carolinians’ health and livelihood.”

“This ban blatantly defies nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent protecting a person’s right to end a pregnancy. Many states have passed similar bans in an attempt to send a Roe test case to the Supreme Court, but courts have blocked them all,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, later signaling Planned Parenthood’s intent to fight similar proposals nationwide in court.

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