South Carolina governor signs six-week abortion ban

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Thursday signed into law a ban on abortions after an ultrasound detects any cardiac activity, which is typically at about six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. 

The law marks a significant setback for abortion-rights advocates in the state. Prior to this measure, abortions were legal in South Carolina until 22 weeks, though a lack of access and other restrictions often prevented women from getting abortions after 12 weeks in the state. 

Passage of the abortion ban sets up an immediate showdown with the state Supreme Court, which earlier this year struck down a similar 2021 law banning abortion at six weeks, citing violations of the constitution’s right to privacy.

Moments after McMaster signed the ban into law, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, the Greenville Women’s Clinic and two physician-plaintiffs filed a suit in state court seeking to block it, arguing it comes just four months after the state’s highest court halted a nearly identical law. 

“State lawmakers have once again trampled on our right to make private health care decisions, ignoring warnings from health care providers and precedent set by the state’s highest court just a few months ago. The decision of if, when, and how to have a child is deeply personal, and politicians making that decision for anyone else is government overreach of the highest order,” Planned Parenthood South Atlantic President and CEO Jenny Black said in a press release announcing the lawsuit Thursday.

“We will always fight for our patients’ ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and access the health care they need. We urge the court to take swift action to block this dangerous ban on abortion,” she continued.

McMaster, who just won reelection and is now serving in his final term, praised the new law while acknowledging that it was likely to trigger a legal showdown.

“With my signature, the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act is now law and will begin saving the lives of unborn children immediately. We stand ready to defend this legislation against any challenges because there is no more important right than the right to life,” he said in a statement

With the ban, South Carolina becomes the latest GOP-led state to institute sweeping abortion restrictions after the Supreme Court last year struck down Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed abortion rights at the federal level.