August 25, 2023

South Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Heartbeat Law

On August 23, the South Carolina Supreme Court decided 4-1 to uphold the state's new law protecting pre-born children at six weeks gestation.

South Carolina's “Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” protects preborn children with detectable heartbeats from the violence of abortion. A child's heartbeat is typically detectable by ultrasound in the sixth week of development.

The law contains exceptions for cases of rape and incest up to twelve weeks, after the unborn child is diagnosed with a fatal fetal anomaly, or when the mother's physical health is at serious risk of irreversible harm.

In the latter case, physicians are legally required to "make all reasonable efforts to deliver and save the life of an unborn child during the process of separating the unborn child from the pregnant woman."

The law further prohibits the use of state funding for abortion-related expenses (such as travel to a pro-abortion state for the purpose of obtaining abortion) and requires men to provide child support from the date of conception.

Justice John Kittredge wrote in the majority opinion that the pro-life law “infringes on a woman’s right of privacy and bodily autonomy,” but said that “virtually every law operates in some manner to limit a person’s privacy.” He continued that this right does not outweigh “the interest of the unborn child to live.”

“For example, no rational person would contend the State does not have the authority to enact laws criminalizing assault, rape, theft, child abuse, drug trafficking, and the like. In these and so many other areas, the power of the State to regulate and prohibit conduct is unquestioned. There is not the slightest prospect that a court would contravene the will of the people, as codified by their elected representatives, because the law amounts to an invasion of privacy.”

“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.”

“South Carolina’s new law will save hundreds of lives each month,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “We thank the South Carolina legislature and Governor Henry McMaster for their dedication to protecting the right to life. We also praise our South Carolina affiliate, South Carolina Citizens for Life, for their hard work and diligence in seeing the bill pass and become law.”