Appellate court sets hearing in South Carolina abortion case
An appellate court is set to debate a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s abortion law about a week after the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar measure in Mississippi.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has tentatively calendared the South Carolina case for oral arguments the week of Dec. 6, according to an order from the court posted Friday.
Planned Parenthood is suing South Carolina to over the measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this year and requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a so-called “fetal heartbeat.” If cardiac activity — which can typically be detected about six weeks into pregnancy — is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.
Opponents have argued many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. And, they argue, with such an early deadline, the law gives women little time to consider whether to have an abortion.
Medical experts say the cardiac activity is not an actual heartbeat but rather an initial flutter of electric activity within cells in an embryo. They say the heart doesn’t begin to form until the fetus is at least nine weeks old, and they decry efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.
A judge has blocked South Carolina’s law from going into effect pending the outcome of a challenge to Mississippi’s new abortion law, which the U.S. Supreme Court expects to hear Dec. 1.
Mississippi wants the high court to uphold its ban on most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, telling the court it should overrule the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that prevents states from banning abortion before viability.
South Carolina is among a dozen states closely watching newly passed abortion measures through the courts. In Texas, the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S. was reinstated by a federal appeals court Friday after a 48-hour reprieve caused by a suspension ordered by a lower court judge in Austin. The Biden administration, which sued Texas over the law known as Senate Bill 8, has yet to say whether it will take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In July, 20 mostly Republican-led states went on record in support of South Carolina’s law, arguing in an amicus brief that a federal judge was wrong to pause the entire measure instead of just the provision being challenged. Several months later, 20 Democratic attorneys general voiced their support for the lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s law, arguing that the restrictive measure could harm their states by taxing resources if women cross borders to seek care.
___ Meg Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.