COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A state law that bans most abortions about six weeks into pregnancy in South Carolina is unconstitutional.

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled 3-2 to toss out the ban, also known as the Fetal Heartbeat Act. It was signed into law in 2021 and banned nearly all abortions in the state once cardiac activity was detected.

In the majority opinion, Justice Kaye Hearn wrote, “We hold that the decision to terminate a pregnancy rests upon the utmost personal and private considerations imaginable, and implicates a woman’s right to privacy. While this right is not absolute and must be balanced against the State’s interest in protecting unborn life, this Act, which severely limits—and in many instances completely forecloses—abortion, is an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy
and is therefore unconstitutional.”

Chief Justice Donald Beatty and Justice John Few concurred with Justice Hearn’s opinion.

Abortion providers in South Carolina and others challenged the law with a state lawsuit following the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court this summer after it took effect in June. They argued the ban violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.

Justices listened to arguments in the case back in October. Attorneys for the General Assembly, Governor and Attorney General argued the right to privacy in the Constitution is limited to search and seizure and was not intended to protect the right to an abortion.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice George James wrote, “Bodily autonomy is an intensely personal issue for South Carolinians and justifiably so. In particular, a woman’s right to have an abortion is a subject of great debate and differing personal opinions. These personal opinions are deserving of consideration and understanding. However, when I put aside any personal preferences and review the issue under South Carolina law, I conclude a citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable invasions of privacy does not extend beyond the context of searches and seizures.”

Justice John Kittredge also dissented.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic President and CEO Jenny Black said, “This is a monumental victory in the movement to protect legal abortion in the South.”

South Carolina House Speaker Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) wrote in a statement, “Today’s decision fails to respect the concept of separation of powers and strips the people of this state from having a say in a decision that was meant to reflect their voices.”

South Carolina law currently bans abortion at 20 weeks into pregnancy. State lawmakers return to Columbia on January 10th.

You can read the full ruling here.

This is a developing story.