South Carolina’s abortion appeal hearing has moved to January

South Carolina’s abortion appeal hearing has moved to January

Columbia, SC Appeals arguments over a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s abortion law have pushed into the new year.

Oral arguments in the case were originally scheduled for next month, but the Fourth US Court of Appeals rescheduled it for the past week in January, according to a court order. Earlier this week, state attorneys also requested that the case be heard that weekend, due to scheduling conflicts.

Planned Parenthood is suing South Carolina over the procedure, which Republican Governor Henry McMaster signed into law earlier this year and requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check what’s called a “fetal heartbeat.” If cardiac activity is detected – which can usually be detected after six weeks of pregnancy – the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.


Opponents have argued that many women do not know they are six weeks pregnant. And they argue, with such an early deadline, that the law gives women too little time to think about whether they should have an abortion.

Medical experts say that the activity of the heart is not an actual heartbeat, but rather an initial flutter of intracellular electrical activity in the fetus. They say the heart does not begin to form until the fetus is at least nine weeks old, and decry efforts to encourage abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.

The Fourth Circuit had originally planned to hear the case in the week of December 6. A week after the US Supreme Court heard a challenge to the new abortion law in Mississippi. South Carolina law has been blocked, pending the outcome of this legal challenge.


Mississippi wants the Supreme Court to uphold its ban on most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, telling the court it should overturn the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion, and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. which prevents states from banning abortion before it becomes applicable.

South Carolina is among dozens of states awaiting a US Supreme Court decision on Texas’ abortion law – the most restrictive in the country – which bans abortions as early as six weeks and has no exceptions for rape or incest.

Its unique enforcement mechanism also allows anyone — even someone outside Texas — to sue an abortion provider, or anyone else who may have assisted someone with an abortion after the cap, and seek monetary damages of up to $10,000 for each defendant.


In July, 20 mostly Republican states registered in support of the South Carolina law, arguing that a federal judge was wrong to stop the measure entirely rather than simply appeal the ruling. Several months later, 20 Democratic attorneys general expressed support for a legal challenge to the South Carolina law, arguing that the restrictive measure could harm their states by taxing resources if women cross the border to seek care.


Meg Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at

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