National News

Court Puts Temporary Hold On South Carolina Abortion Ban A Day After Governor Signed Bill

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is pictured in Columbia Nov. 3, 2020. The South Carolina Senate passed a six-week ban on most abortions that was OK’d by the state House May 17. McMaster was expected to sign the bill into law. (OSV News photo)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (OSV News) — A judge put a temporary hold on South Carolina’s six-week ban on most abortions May 26, a day after Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed the measure into law.

Judge Clifton B. Newman, an at-large judge of the South Carolina Circuit Court, said in a statement that it is his view “the status quo should be maintained” until the state Supreme Court reviews it. “It’s going to end up there,” he added.

Two days after the South Carolina Senate passed a six-week ban on most abortions in a 27-19 vote late May 23, McMaster’s signed the measure into law. His office said it was effective immediately, but now is halted with Newman’s ruling.

The South Carolina Supreme Court previously struck down a similar six-week abortion ban.

In a tweet after the vote and before he signed the bill, McMaster tweeted: “The General Assembly has handled this issue in a thoughtful, transparent and collaborative manner. Tonight, our state is one step closer to protecting more innocent lives.”

The governor took to Twitter after Newman’s decision, saying, “We will continue fighting to protect the lives of the unborn in South Carolina and the constitutional law that protects them. I hope that the Supreme Court will take this matter up without delay.”

Senate action on a House-amended version of the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act (SB 474) came nearly a week after the other chamber approved the measure. The Senate had already passed its own version of the bill in February but accepted changes made by the House.

McMaster had called lawmakers back for a special session to consider the measure, which bans most abortions after cardiac activity can be detected — a point before many women know they are pregnant, effectively banning most abortions. The bill does include exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother, as well as for a fatal fetal anomaly. South Carolina law had permitted abortion until 22 weeks gestation.

If it were to go into effect, it would mean that every Southern state in the U.S. except Virginia has moved to restrict abortion since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last June.

The South Carolina Catholic Conference supported the bill and, after the House vote, praised lawmakers for advancing it.

“The Catholic Conference thanks our pro-life legislators for their resolve and commitment to defending the unborn,” the conference wrote in a post on its website.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic tweeted after the Senate vote: “We have just one thing to say to the state of South Carolina: We’ll see you in court.”

In a statement after the May 17 House vote, Vicki Ringer, the organization’s director of public affairs, had urged the Senate ” to once again reject this overreach into our health care decisions.”

“Lawmakers are wasting more taxpayer dollars to shove an abortion ban down our throats during yet another special session,” she said.

Caitlin Connors, Southern regional director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a May 23 statement that “South Carolina’s heartbeat protection reflects the will of the people and the science.”

“A heartbeat is one of the key vital signs of life, and once that heartbeat is detected, a baby has more than a 90% chance of surviving to birth. This measure will save thousands of individuals each year who will enrich the lives of others and the state of South Carolina,” she said.

“We thank South Carolina House members for their persistence during marathon days last week when Democrats introduced 1,000 amendments as a stall tactic in their effort to continue late-term abortions, and we’re grateful the Senate today sent this much needed protection to Gov. McMaster’s desk,” Connors added.