South Carolina’s “fetal heartbeat law,” which bans abortion once a doctor can detect the heartbeat of an unborn child, can continue to be in effect, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
The law, which was enacted in 2021 and went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, has been challenged by Planned Parenthood and other parties.
Judge L. Casey Manning in Richland County said that the South Carolina Supreme Court should be the forum to decide on the case, but in the meantime, he declined a request by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic and two physicians to temporarily block the law.
“This is one of the most fundamentally important constitutional issues I think that will ever be raised by anyone at any time,” Manning said in a Richland County courtroom.
Hannah Swanson, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, argued against transferring the case to the Supreme Court, saying, “If an issue can be decided by a trial court, it should be decided by a trial court.”
She pointed out that a 1993 South Carolina Supreme Court case, Singleton v. State, “developed protections for bodily autonomy under the constitutional right to privacy,” The State, a South Carolina newspaper, reported.
“Since the beginning of the pro-life movement in 1973, the most popular pro-life motto has been ‘Abortion Stops a Beating Heart,’ It is a scientifically accurate statement, not a political soundbite,” South Carolina Citizens for Life has said. “The Fetal Heartbeat Bill protects a pregnant woman’s right to know that her baby has a beating heart and it protects the unborn members of our human family from death by abortion when the heartbeat can be detected.”
A heartbeat can be detected at about six weeks gestation. The law provides exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother and fetal anomaly.