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Abortion remains legal in the state after high court rules that the ban violates South Carolinians’ constitutional right to privacy

COLUMBIA, S.C. —  Today, the South Carolina Supreme Court permanently struck down Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1), a law banning abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. In a 3-2 decision, the high court ruled that the ban cannot be enforced because it violates the South Carolina Constitution.

Each of the justices wrote separately in deciding the case, but three justices agreed that the law violates the state’s right to privacy. As Justice Hearn explained in the lead opinion in the decision, “Few decisions in life are more private than the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy. Our privacy right must be implicated by restrictions on that decision.”

The six-week abortion ban — which had been blocked by federal courts since 2021 — took effect on June 27, 2022, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. After abortion providers filed a new challenge to the law in state court, the South Carolina Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the law while the case proceeded. Today’s ruling — the culmination of that challenge — permanently strikes down the ban, allowing doctors to continue providing abortion care to patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy in a region decimated by state abortion bans.

Statement from Jenny Black, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic:

“The court’s decision means that our patients can continue to come to us, their trusted health care providers, to access abortion and other essential health services in South Carolina. This is a monumental victory in the movement to protect legal abortion in the South. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and our partners will continue our fight to block any bill that allows politicians to interfere in people’s private health care decisions.”

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“Today’s ruling is a win for freedom. We are relieved that this dangerous law has been relegated to the history books and can no longer threaten patients and providers in South Carolina. Reproductive health care, including abortion, is a fundamental right that should never be subject to the whims of power-hungry politicians. Planned Parenthood will keep working day by day and state by state to safeguard that right for all people, and we won’t stop until everyone can access the essential health care they need and deserve.”

Statement from Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The court justly rejected this insidious attempt to take away South Carolinians’ fundamental rights under the state’s constitution. These radical bans have wreaked havoc across the South and Midwest, but today’s decision means that the right to make deeply personal health care decisions will remain protected in South Carolina — an immense victory for South Carolinians and the entire region. We know that lawmakers will double down on their relentless efforts to restrict essential health care, but we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to restore abortion access across the country once and for all.”

Timeline of abortion providers’ case against S.B. 1:

  • June 27, 2022: After being blocked by federal courts since 2021, South Carolina’s ban on abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy (Senate Bill 1) takes effect shortly after Roe v. Wade is overturned.
  • July 13, 2022: Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic, and two physician plaintiffs file a new state court challenge to S.B. 1. The lawsuit asks a state trial court to block the ban for violating South Carolinians’ constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection under the South Carolina Constitution 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.
  • July 20, 2022: The state petitions the South Carolina Supreme Court for original jurisdiction in an effort to bypass the judicial process and delay proceedings. In that petition, Gov. Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson, House Speaker G. Murrell Smith, and Senate President Thomas Alexander ask the South Carolina Supreme Court to declare that S.B. 1 is constitutional and that the South Carolina Constitution does not protect the right to abortion.
  • July 26, 2022: The state trial court refuses to decide abortion providers’ request for relief against S.B. 1 and agrees to try to transfer the case to the South Carolina Supreme Court, leaving patients and providers in legal limbo.
  • July 27, 2022: Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic, and the physicians file an emergency motion for a temporary injunction against S.B. 1 with the South Carolina Supreme Court while it considers whether to resolve the constitutionality of S.B. 1.
  • August 17, 2022: The South Carolina Supreme Court grants abortion providers’ emergency motion for a temporary injunction, blocking S.B. 1s. It also agrees to hear the abortion providers’ challenge to the law in the court’s original jurisdiction.
  • October 19, 2022: The South Carolina Supreme Court hears oral arguments in abortion providers’ challenge to  S.B. 1.
  • January 5, 2023: The South Carolina Supreme Court grants abortion providers’ request for a permanent injunction against S.B. 1, ruling 3-2 that the law violates South Carolinians’ rights under the state constitution.

The plaintiffs are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm Burnette Shutt & McDaniel.


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