South Carolina’s supreme court delivered a blow this week to pro-life supporters in general – and attorney general Alan Wilson in particular. The Palmetto State’s top court denied Wilson’s request to rehear its recent ruling striking down the 2021 “heartbeat bill.”
“As we’ve said previously, we respectfully disagree with the court’s decision,” Wilson said in a prepared statement. “This issue is now in the legislature’s hands.”
Signed into law in February 2021, the ‘heartbeat bill’ banned a majority of abortions in the Palmetto State once a fetal heartbeat had been detected. Exceptions were made for cases involving rape or incest. Originally blocked by federal courts, the bill became law last summer when the U.S. supreme court struck down Roe v. Wade.
The law remained in effect until the state supreme court issued an injunction against its enforcement in August of 2022. Five months later, it struck the bill down – arguing it violated supposed privacy protections contained in the S.C. Constitution (Article I, Section 10).
“We hold that the decision to terminate a pregnancy rests upon the utmost personal and private considerations imaginable, and implicates a woman’s right to privacy,” the majority opinion written by associate justice Kaye Hearn noted. “While this right is not absolute, and must be balanced against the State’s interest in protecting unborn life, this Act, which severely limits — and in many instances completely forecloses — abortion, is an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy and is therefore unconstitutional.”
In a dissenting opinion, associate justice John Kittredge said the state legislature had clearly spoken on the subject of abortion “in a democratic process through their elected representatives.”
“The majority of the court has opted for a judicial resolution of this policy dispute,” Kittredge added, blasting his colleagues for making “a stunning departure from settled law.”
“The legislative policy determination gives priority to protecting the life of the unborn child,” Kittredge noted.
In denying Wilson’s motion for an appeal, the court noted its refusal applied to all requests for rehearing from other parties – effectively shutting down any challenge of its controversial 3-2 ruling last month.
The stage is now set for a potential abortion showdown in the S.C. General Assembly, where competing proposals are pending in both chambers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast. Got a tip or a story idea for Mark? Email him at [email protected].
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