South Carolina's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a state law banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy is unconstitutional because it violates a right to privacy, handing a major win to abortion rights supporters in the U.S. South.
The 2021 law, which banned abortion often before a woman knows she is pregnant, took effect in the conservative state after the U.S. Supreme Court in June eliminated the longstanding right to abortion that had been established by the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
Planned Parenthood challenged the law, and the state Supreme Court, comprised of five justices, blocked it in August pending a decision in the case. On Thursday, the court ruled 3-2 in Planned Parenthood's favor.
"We hold that our state constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion," Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the majority opinion.
Hearn wrote that while the state can set some limits on abortion, any regulation on privacy in regards to the procedure should give a woman "sufficient time to determine she is pregnant and to take reasonable steps to terminate that pregnancy."
Six weeks was "not a reasonable period of time" after which to ban abortion, Hearn said.
The ruling will provide broader legal protections for abortion access in the Southern state, which is a neighbor to other states that have banned abortion in most cases since the overturn of Roe v. Wade. The gestational limit on abortion in South Carolina is now 22 weeks, a spokesperson for the Center for Reproductive Rights said.
Planned Parenthood's South Atlantic affiliate president Jenny Black called the decision "a monumental victory in the movement to protect legal abortion in the South." A White House spokesperson also applauded the ruling.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said his office was working with the governor and legislative leaders on next steps.
"We respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the Court’s ruling," he said.
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