S.C. Supreme Court sets oral arguments in challenge to state's fetal heartbeat law

Sep. 19—The next round in the legal battle over the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Act will take place next month.

Oral arguments are set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Supreme Court courtroom in Columbia over the state law that would ban abortions — with exceptions for rape, incest, fetal anomalies and the life and physical health of the mother — after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Fetal heartbeats are usually detected during the fifth or sixth week of a pregnancy. The most recent abortion statistics provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control indicate that just under 48% of abortions happen before six weeks and just over 51% happen between seven and 12 weeks.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster signed the fetal heartbeat bill into law in 2021. It was immediately challenged in federal court by Planned Parenthood, the Greenville Women's Clinic and two doctors and the courts temporarily blocked the law while the litigation went on.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the block on the law was dismissed. And the plaintiffs in the suit challenged the law in state court, leading to the October hearing.

M. Malissa Burnette, Kathleen McColl McDaniel and Grant Burnette LeFever, Julia A. Murray and Hannah Swansonwill represent Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Dr. Katherine Farris. Genevieve Scott and Astrid Ackerman, both of New York City, will represent the Greenville Women's Clinic and Dr. Terry Buffkin.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, Solicitor General Robert Cook, Deputy Solicitor General J. Emory Smith Jr., Assistant Deputy Solicitor General Thomas Hydrick, all of Columbia, will represent the state of South Carolina, Wilson and 13th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins. Kevin Hall and Matthew Carroll will represent Senate President Thomas Alexander and House Speaker Murrell Smith Jr. Chief of Legal Counsel Thomas Limehouse, Senior Legal Counsel William Lambert and Deputy Legal Counsel Erica Shedd will represent Gov. Henry McMaster.

The entry in the court's roster does not specify how much time will be allocated to each side or for each side to respond to the other.