South Carolina’s stringent new law banning most abortions was suspended by a federal judge Friday on its second day in effect.
Judge Mary Geiger Lewis halted its enforcement by issuing a temporary restraining order ahead of a March 9 hearing on Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge.
The new law states that “no person shall perform, induce, or attempt to perform or induce an abortion” where the “fetal heartbeat has been detected.”
Gov. Henry McMaster signed it into effect Thursday less than an hour after it was sent to him.
Planned Parenthood rushed to court, asking for the preliminary injunction granted Friday.
In a proposed order, the national reproductive health services organization said the act violates a patient’s right to “previability abortion,” as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
“The Supreme Court has held that a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,” Planned Parenthood wrote.
South Carolina’s so-called “heartbeat bill” is similar to abortion restriction laws that a dozen other states including Georgia previously passed.
All were stopped from taking effect and remain tied up in court.
The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office said in paperwork filed Friday that Planned Parenthood can’t be sure the law will be rejected by the current U.S. Supreme Court, which counts three new justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Detectable fetal cardiac activity typically starts to emerge around the sixth week of gestation, well before many women know they’re pregnant – and long before a fetus is considered viable.
“The act would force patients to race to a health center for an abortion, even if they did not yet feel confident in their decision,” Katherine Farris, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, wrote in a filing for the case.
The Planned Parenthood suit further argues the new law would disproportionately harm Black mothers who die from childbirth at a much higher rate than white women in South Carolina.
The new law does not target pregnant women receiving abortions but states the person performing an “illegal” procedure can be charged with a felony, sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000 if found guilty.