The South Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the state’s near-total ban on abortion in a 4-1 vote. This decision reverses a previous ruling made in January that struck down a similar ban and declared that the State Constitution’s protections for privacy included a right to abortion. The court’s decision was expected due to changes in the bench’s makeup and the passing of a new abortion law by Republicans in the State Legislature. The new law bans abortion after embryonic cardiac activity can be detected, generally around six weeks of pregnancy, replacing the previous allowance of abortion until 22 weeks.
The South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision has sparked controversy and concern among reproductive rights advocates. Jenny Black, the CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, argues that the decision will force women to carry pregnancies against their will, emphasizing the “dangerous politicization of South Carolina’s highest court.” The state has become an unexpected battleground for abortion rights, with the Republican-controlled Legislature passing a law in 2021 banning abortion when cardiac activity can be detected. Abortion rights advocates and medical providers argue that the right to abortion is protected in the state’s constitution, which explicitly states a right to privacy.
The court’s decision was influenced by a change on the bench, with the retirement of the court’s only female justice who had previously written the decision striking down the ban. Anti-abortion lawmakers aimed to satisfy the court’s concerns and pushed for a six-week ban, leading to a rare special session called by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster. Male lawmakers joined the female lawmakers who had previously blocked a total ban in supporting the six-week law. The court’s decision highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the right to abortion in South Carolina and the erosion of reproductive rights since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.