By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life
COLUMBIA, SC (Wednesday, August 23, 2023) – In a 4-1 decision today, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act stating, “[T]he legislature has found that the State has a compelling interest in protecting the lives of unborn children. That finding is indisputable and one we must respect.”
The decision is a dramatic reversal of the court’s previous 3-2 ruling in January that found an earlier Fetal Heartbeat law violated the South Carolina Constitution’s “right to privacy provision.” The retirement of one justice and the election of a new justice changed the vote, and one justice, John Few, who voted against the first heartbeat law, voted in favor of the new law.
Wednesday’s opinion, written by Justice John Kittredge, lifts the injunction Planned Parenthood and individual abortionists sought when Governor Henry McMaster signed the current law on May 25, 2023. The injunction meant abortions in South Carolina remained legal up to the 20th week of pregnancy.
Justice Kittredge was joined in his opinion by Justice George James, Jr. who also upheld the former Heartbeat bill, newly elected Justice Garrison Hill, and Justice Few who wrote a separate opinion. Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty, who opposed the first heartbeat bill, ruled again against the 2023 version of the law.
The decision was met with praise from the authentic pro-life movement of South Carolina. Lisa Van Riper, President of South Carolina Citizens for Life, the oldest and largest single-issue pro-life organization in the state, said, “This decision today restores protection for all human beings with a detectable heartbeat. By upholding the Heartbeat Act, the majority of the South Carolina Supreme Court has affirmed that the General Assembly and Governor McMaster acted within their power to carry out their most basic governmental responsibilities of protecting a human being’s right to life. South Carolina Citizens for Life commends the state Supreme Court, the General Assembly, the Governor, and Attorney General Alan Wilson for their work to protect the least among us from the barbaric practice of abortion on demand after the unborn child has a heartbeat.”
“The Supreme Court’s ruling marks a historic moment in our state’s history,” said Governor McMaster, “and is the culmination of years of hard work and determination by so many in our state to ensure that the sanctity of life is protected. With this victory we protect the lives of countless unborn children and reaffirm South Carolina’s place as one of the most pro-life states in America.”
Representative John McCravy, R-Greenville, Chairman of the SC House Family Caucus, said, “I am grateful to God and moved to tears that finally, after a four-year legal odyssey, our state will no longer be an abortion destination. There is still much work to be done, but it is a big step forward to eradicating abortion for convenience in South Carolina. This is a win for the entire pro-life movement at a time when we sorely needed encouragement.”
Attorney General Alan Wilson said he is pleased with the court’s decision. “I am grateful for our office’s roll in defending the law.” He said the law will take effect immediately.
Mark Baumgartner, president of A Moment of Hope, a highly effective sidewalk counseling ministry that offers pregnant women free ultrasound images of their baby, said, “Today was an abortion day at Columbia’s Planned Parenthood and our staff was outside to offer help and alternatives. Planned Parenthood was in full swing killing babies until the word came out that the Heartbeat law was upheld.”
When news of the opinion reached him, Mr. Baumgartner said, the Planned Parenthood parking lot began to empty, and the abortionist drove away. “It is a glorious sight to see the parking lot emptying now,” he said.
Many secular news outlets falsely refer to the Fetal Heartbeat Act as a “six week abortion ban.” The majority opinion clearly states, “The 2023 Act generally prohibits an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, not at a specific period of weeks into the pregnancy.”