COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — About 24 hours after Gov. Henry McMaster signed the fetal heartbeat bill into law, a federal judge temporarily blocked the new ban.
The new law bans most abortions in South Carolina once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Most doctors have said this happens about six to eight weeks into a pregnancy.
In court Friday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis granted a 14-day temporary restraining order on the law. She said in court she would renew the order until another hearing is held.
For about an hour in court, lawyers for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic & Greenville Women’s Clinic and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office argued about the constitutionality of the ban. You can read the Planned Parenthood lawsuit here.
“To ban abortions anytime before viability deprives women of their constitutional right to chose what happens to their bodies,” said Malissa Burnette, one of the attorneys representing Planned Parenthood. “That should be a decision not by the government but by a woman and her family and physicians.”
Lawyers for the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office argued that federal abortion law is in “flux” with abortion bans tied up in court across the country.
Emory Smith provided a brief statement outside the courthouse after the judge’s decision. He said,
“I’m not going to comment on whether I’m surprised,” Smith said. “We asked the court to not issue a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. She is allowing us additional time to be heard on the preliminary injunction and really that’s all about I can say at this point.”
In court, Smith told the judge the Supreme Court has never taken up a heartbeat bill like this before, so there could be an overturn of Roe v. Wade in a few years.
“I don’t think they should count their chickens before they hatch,” Burnette said. “Because that court with Republican appointees has already surprised some folks with decisions based on law and not on politics.”
In a written statement, Attorney General Alan Wilson said: “Today’s temporary restraining order is only a first step, but the legal fight has just begun. We look forward to further arguing why this law should be valid.”
The next hearing is scheduled for March 9. If the preliminary injunction is granted, the state could appeal that ruling.