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Federal appeals court panel upholds decision temporarily blocking South Carolina Heartbeat Law

by | Feb 23, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

A three–judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday upheld a ruling by a district court that temporarily blocks enforcement of the state’s Heartbeat law.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and the Greenville Women’s Clinic filed the lawsuit against the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” the day it became law in 2021. U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lewis temporarily enjoined the law on January 27.

Twenty states are supporting South Carolina’s defense of the law. They argued in an amicus brief that Judge Lewis “was wrong to pause the entire measure instead of just the provision facing a court challenge,” according to Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press.

The appeals court panel brushed that argument aside. “The 4th Circuit found that all of the provisions of the law — including requiring an abortion provider to perform an ultrasound, display the ultrasound images to the patient, and offer the patient the opportunity to listen to any detected fetal heartbeat — are designed to implement the ban,” Kinnard wrote.

“‘These provisions serve to carry out the six-week abortion ban and make little sense without the ban. As such, the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to sever the remaining portions of the Act,’ Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the court in the 3-0 ruling.”

“We are disappointed in the Court’s opinion,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement. “However, we will continue to explore any and all means necessary to protect life in the remaining stages of this case as well as in any other cases that may arise.”

The Supreme Court currently has two abortion-related cases on its plate. One is Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which protects unborn babies after 15th weeks. The other is Texas’ Senate Bill 8 which protects unborn children whose hearts have begun to beat, usually at about 6 weeks of pregnancy.

“The abortion industry frequently fights life-protecting laws in court,” said Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life. “The ruling was 3-0, so the next step is to appeal to full 4th Circuit Court and probably to the US Supreme Court that has two pro-life cases before it now. Currently there are many moving parts in pro-life lawmaking, whether it is supporting fetal heartbeat laws or opposing extremist pro-abortion legislation in the US Senate. “

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