4th Circuit hears challenge to South Carolina’s Heartbeat law

By Dave Andrusko

On Thursday, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments pro and con over the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster on February 18, 2021.

“Planned Parenthood is suing South Carolina over the measure, which requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for fetal heartbeat,” said Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life. “If a heartbeat is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.”

The South Carolina law requires the abortionist to provide the woman an opportunity to see the ultrasound and to hear the fetal heartbeat if she so chooses. Informed consent laws have been consistently upheld by the courts. 

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and the Greenville Women’s Clinic filed the lawsuit the day that the Heartbeat Bill became law in 2021.

At issue in the appeal “is a decision by U.S. District Judge Mary Lewis to put the entire law on hold, with attorneys for the state arguing that it was improper to stall all parts of the measure, rather than just the ‘heartbeat’ provision,” The Associated Press’ Meg Kinnard reported.

The Supreme Court currently has two abortion-related cases on is docket. One is Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which protects unborn babies after 15th weeks. The other is Texas’ Senate Bill 8 which protects unborn children whose hearts have begun to beat, usually at about 6 weeks of pregnancy. 

 “This appeal involves the limited power of federal courts to enjoin enforcement of state law,” begins the 52-page appellants’’ brief filed by Governor Henry McMaster. “Through several means,” the brief continues, “the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act advances South Carolina’s ‘legitimate interests from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the’ unborn.”

Gov. McMaster’s brief assert that Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit before the governor “even signed the Act into law.” U.S. District Judge Lewis, an Obama appointee, “substituted [her] own assessment for the [S.C.] General Assembly’s judgement and the Act’s plain text,” the argument continues. 

She erred in failing to uphold parts of the law that provide critical information to the pregnant woman and that “many states have passed – and courts have upheld.”