COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a bill banning most abortions in South Carolina, preventing the measure from coming into force even before the governor had enacted it during a public ceremony.
The bill has been a top priority for Republican Gov. Henry McMaster since taking office in 2017. It is similar to abortion restriction laws a dozen states have already passed. All are tied up in court. Federal law, which takes precedence over state law, currently permits abortion.
The House passed its bill by 79 to 35 on Wednesday after hours of moving testimony from supporters and opponents, and gave final approval to the measure on Thursday. Moments after Thursday’s second vote, Planned Parenthood announced it was taking legal action. South Carolina’s “Fetal Heart Rate and Abortion Protection Act”, like other similar laws currently in dispute, is “patently unconstitutional,” said Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic .
Supporters of restrictive abortion laws are trying to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes that – with three justices appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump – the court could overthrow Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision supporting the right to abortion. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that abortion is legal until a fetus is viable outside the womb – months after a heartbeat can be detected, Black noted.
State bills to restrict or ban abortion “are patently absurd,” Black said. “There is no other way around this.”
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released a statement Thursday saying his office “will vigorously defend this law in court because there is nothing more important than protecting life.”
The Planned Parenthood lawsuit argues that South Carolina’s new law “is in flagrant violation of nearly five decades of Supreme Court precedent.” The costume indicates that a high rate of women, especially African American women, die during or immediately after childbirth in South Carolina. The abortion ban would be more difficult for low-income women, who could not travel to a neighboring state where abortion is still permitted, according to the lawsuit.
Black said the focus on abortion wasted taxpayer dollars and ignored a host of other important issues such as health care, unequal treatment of women and education, Black said.
“If lawmakers are really interested in improving lives, we have a long list of priorities they can focus on,” Black said.
The South Carolina bill requires doctors to perform ultrasound scans to check the fetus’ heart rate. If detected, abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or if the mother’s life is in danger.
The measure would not punish a pregnant woman for having had an illegal abortion, but the person who performed the abortion could be charged with a felony, sentenced for up to two years and fined $ 10,000 if she is. found guilty.
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