COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Attorneys for abortion providers in South Carolina have filed a petition for a rehearing in the case surrounding the state’s new abortion ban.
Wednesday, the State Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that the law was constitutional.
Abortion providers said the state Supreme Court’s decision left a critical question unanswered, the interpretation of the term “fetal heartbeat.” Their attorneys argued that the court’s ruling acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the term in the act.
Under the law, “fetal heartbeat” defined as “cardiac activity, or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart, within the gestational sac.” Lawmakers declared this happens as early as six-weeks into a pregnancy, critics have argued this is before a woman may know she is even pregnant.
In the majority opinion, Justice John Kittredge wrote, “The 2023 Act generally prohibits an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, not at a specified period of weeks into the pregnancy.”
A footnote was included in this opinion, “We leave for another day (in an as-applied constitutional challenge) the meaning of “fetal heartbeat” and whether the statutory definition—”cardiac activity, or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart, within the gestational sac”—refers to one period of time during a pregnancy or two separate periods of time.”
Attorneys for abortion providers argue the language is ambiguous and are requesting the Supreme Court provide clarity.
When asked about the language of the law by reporters Wednesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) said, “It’s pretty clear that fetal cardiac activity is a one-time event…If you can detect that at one place in time then that would seem to me address the real concerns about it.”
You can read the petition below: