Federal judge temporarily halts SC abortion ban

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:15 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A federal judge has temporarily stopped South Carolina’s new abortion ban from taking effect.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic requested a temporary restraining order on the Fetal Heartbeat Bill that Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law on Thursday. It has also filed suit against the state over the new law, claiming it is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis issued the temporary restraining order (TRO) Friday afternoon, meaning the abortion ban cannot take effect for 14 days.

Lewis said she would renew the restraining order for another 14 days after the initial order times out, in order to prevent the ban from taking effect before a March 9th hearing over a preliminary injunction.

That hearing could result in Lewis again ruling the ban cannot take effect.

“Today, abortion remains safe and legal in South Carolina, and politicians’ plan to restrict access to health care has failed,” Jenny Black, president and CEO at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said. “Gov. McMaster: South Carolinians need a COVID-19 plan, not an abortion ban. Our patients deserve more from their elected leaders. As a leading provider of reproductive health care in the state, including abortion, our doors are open to the South Carolinians who depend on us every day. We will never stop fighting on behalf of our patients.”

The abortion ban would make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which supporters of the law say is about six to eight weeks after conception. It does include exceptions including in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomalies, or if the mother’s life is in danger.

If a health care provider performs an abortion outside of these situations, the doctor could face a felony charge, up to two years in jail, and or a $10,000 fine if the law goes into effect.

The ban would also require doctors to give a patient’s contact information to local law enforcement officials if they perform an abortion on a woman who says they were a victim of rape or incest.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he believes the law is constitutional and he will fight for its validity in court.

“We believe the Heartbeat Law is constitutional and deserves a vigorous defense to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary,” Wilson said. “Every generation has a right and a duty to revisit issues as important as this one. The Heartbeat Law protects life. Nothing is more important or fundamental. Today’s temporary restraining order is only a first step, but the legal fight has just begun. We look forward to further arguing why this law should be valid.”

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