Providers assert ban violates South Carolina Constitutional rights
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Today, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic, and two physician plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to again block Senate Bill 1, South Carolina’s ban on abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. Today’s new challenge to the law comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the federal constitutional right to abortion.
Abortion providers have asked a state trial court to block the law on the grounds that it violates South Carolinians’ constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection by banning abortion, by providing inadequate protections for patients’ health, and by conditioning sexual assault survivors’ access to abortion on the disclosure of their personal information to law enforcement.
Because of Senate Bill 1, South Carolina providers have been forced to turn away patients who need abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy – before many people even know they are pregnant. While Senate Bill 1 remains in effect, South Carolinians who need care past the earliest stages of pregnancy will be forced to travel out of state, seek abortion outside the health care system, or continue pregnancies against their will.
“Planned Parenthood South Atlantic has long vowed to do everything in our power to protect abortion access for our patients in South Carolina, and today we continue that fight,” said Jenny Black, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “With today’s state court challenge, we are once again seeking to block this harmful law that cruelly denies South Carolinians the power to make their own personal medical decisions. This fight is not new to us, and we know what’s at stake: Without court intervention, South Carolinians will continue to suffer in a state with dangerously high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality, particularly among Black women and babies. We urgently need this court to reject Senate Bill 1 for what it is: a direct assault on our health care, our lives, and fundamental human rights.”
“Patients in South Carolina and across the country have been thrust into chaos after the Supreme Court’s devastating decision to eliminate a federal constitutional right we have relied on for nearly half a century,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We are facing a national health care crisis, and we are in the fight of our lives to restore and protect abortion access as lawmakers in states like South Carolina race to further restrict it. The Supreme Court may have abandoned people, but we never will. Planned Parenthood and our partners will keep fighting for our patients state by state, law by law, until every person has the power to control their own bodies, lives, and futures.”
“The fallout of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has been swift and catastrophic,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “There has been mayhem at an unimaginable scale as people have struggled to find the essential health care that they need. With today’s lawsuit, we are continuing our fight for South Carolinians’ fundamental right to make personal decisions about their own lives, futures, and families. We will not back down. We will continue to work tirelessly across the nation to preserve and protect abortion access.”
Shortly after South Carolina lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1 in 2021, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic challenged the law on the ground that it was inconsistent with Roe. A federal district court blocked the ban while litigation proceeded, and a federal appeals court upheld the lower court’s injunction this past February.
Nearly immediately after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster filed an emergency motion to stay the injunction that had blocked Senate Bill 1. The federal district court granted that request on June 27, allowing the ban to take effect after being blocked for more than a year.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are now seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent enforcement of Senate Bill 1 and immediately allow abortion providers in South Carolina to resume abortion services after six weeks of pregnancy. Plaintiffs are also asking the state court to enter an injunction against enforcement while the litigation proceeds.
The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic – which operate the only clinics offering abortion in South Carolina – and two physicians who provide abortion in South Carolina. They are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm Burnette Shutt & McDaniel.
Terms like “heartbeat bill” are not grounded in medical science. Medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have said the term does not “reflect medical accuracy or clinical understanding” because an embryo does not have a developed heart at six weeks’ gestation. That is why "abortion ban starting at around six weeks of pregnancy” is the recommended, medically-accurate language to describe such a bill.