COLUMBIA, S.C. — Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic, and two physician plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in state court Tuesday seeking to again block Senate Bill 1, South Carolina’s ban on abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.
The move comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the federal constitutional right to abortion, and South Carolina's fetal heartbeat law went into effect.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, abortion providers asked a state trial court to block the law, saying it violates South Carolinians’ constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection by banning abortion, by providing inadequate protections for patients’ health, and by conditioning sexual assault survivors’ access to abortion on the disclosure of their personal information to law enforcement.
Shortly after South Carolina lawmakers passed the fetal heartbeat law in 2021, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic challenged the law on the ground that it was inconsistent with Roe. A federal district court blocked the ban while litigation proceeded, and a federal appeals court upheld the lower court’s injunction this past February.
Days after Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster filed an emergency motion to stay the injunction that had blocked South Carolina's fetal heartbeat law. The federal district court granted that request on June 27, allowing the ban to take effect after being blocked for more than a year.
Providers in the lawsuit say the law forces South Carolinians who need care past the earliest stages of pregnancy to travel out of state, seek abortion outside the health care system, or continue pregnancies against their will.
Plaintiffs are seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent enforcement of South Carolina's fetal heartbeat law and immediately allow abortion providers in South Carolina to resume abortion services after six weeks of pregnancy. Plaintiffs are also asking the state court to enter an injunction against enforcement while the litigation proceeds.
The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic – which operate the only clinics offering abortion in South Carolina – and two physicians who provide abortion in South Carolina. They are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm Burnette Shutt & McDaniel.
With today’s lawsuit, we are continuing our fight for South Carolinians’ fundamental right to make personal decisions about their own lives, futures, and families," said Nancy Northup with the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We will not back down. We will continue to work tirelessly across the nation to preserve and protect abortion access.”
The "Equal Protection at Conception - No Exceptions" act would outlaw abortions at any stage of pregnancy unless the mother's life is at risk. It was introduced by Sen. Richard Cash of Anderson County, as some state lawmakers consider even stricter limits on abortion in South Carolina.
The Biden administration on Monday told hospitals that they “must” provide abortion services if the life of the mother is at risk, saying federal law on emergency treatment guidelines preempts state laws in jurisdictions that now ban the procedure without any exceptions following the Supreme Court's decision to end a constitutional right to abortion.