The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state’s new near-total ban on abortion by a 4-1 vote, reversing a decision it had 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 not unexpected, because the makeup of the bench had changed, and Republicans in the State Legislature had passed a new abortion law in the hopes that it would find a friendlier audience with the new court. The decision in January was written by the court’s only female justice; she retired and South Carolina now has the nation’s only all-male high court.
The decision repeated what the justices said in January about a right to privacy in the State Constitution, but said the Legislature had addressed the concerns in the first law and “balanced” the interests of pregnant women with those of the fetus.
“To be sure, the 2023 Act infringes on a woman’s right of privacy and bodily autonomy,” Justice John Kittredge wrote for the majority.
But, he added, “We think it is important to reiterate: we are constrained by the express language in the South Carolina Constitution that prohibits only ‘unreasonable invasions of privacy.’
“The legislature has made a policy determination that, at a certain point in the pregnancy, a woman’s interest in autonomy and privacy does not outweigh the interest of the unborn child to live.”
The new law bans abortion after embryonic cardiac activity can be detected, which is generally around six weeks of pregnancy. Until now, South Carolina had allowed abortion until 22 weeks, which had increasingly made the state a haven for women seeking abortions as other Southern states banned the procedure. [Continue reading…]