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COLUMBIA, SC — Today, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state’s newly enacted ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy (Senate Bill 474). The law, which had been blocked since May 26, is nearly identical to a six-week ban permanently struck down by this Court in January of this year. After that January decision, the Supreme Court’s only female justice retired, and the legislature appointed Justice Gary Hill to fill her seat, changing the makeup of the court.

As a result of this decision, health care providers in the state will be forced to turn away patients who need an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy — before many people know they are pregnant. South Carolinians who need care past the earliest stages of pregnancy will have to travel out of state for care, seek abortion outside the health care system, or continue pregnancies against their will. South Carolina has been a critical access point for abortion in the South, as surrounding states have banned or severely restricted abortion. Today's ruling means people across the region will need to travel much further for abortion care. 

S.B. 474 contains limited exceptions for the life and physical health of the pregnant person and for cases of a fetal diagnosis “incompatible” with life. Survivors of rape and incest can only access care until 12 weeks of pregnancy and only if their physician reports the assault — and the survivor’s name — to law enforcement, regardless of the survivor’s wishes. 

In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Beatty wrote: “The result will essentially force an untold number of affected women to give birth without their consent. I am hard-pressed to think of a greater governmental intrusion by a political body. This outcome is not an affirmation of the separation of powers, as the majority declares, but an abdication of this Court's duty to ascertain the constitutionality of the challenged legislation.”

Statement from Jenny Black, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic:

“Today’s decision puts the dangerous politicization of South Carolina’s highest court on full display and will cause irreparable harm to the people of South Carolina. This abortion ban is nearly identical to the ban struck down by this court just months ago — the only thing that has changed is the makeup of the court. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s doors remain open, and we will continue to provide abortion care in South Carolina under the severe restrictions of this law, but we know that’s not enough. This abortion ban takes away people’s ability to control what happens to their bodies, forcing many South Carolinians to remain pregnant against their will. Planned Parenthood and our partners will keep fighting for our patients’ ability to control their own bodies, lives, and futures — no matter what.”

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“Today’s state Supreme Court decision will have profound impacts on basic health care in South Carolina and across the region, where access for so many has already been cut off. It is not only a stunning reversal of a decision made just seven months ago but an exceedingly dangerous and cynical move by the court that has chosen to do the bidding of anti-abortion politicians in the legislature. South Carolina already ranks among the worst states in the country for maternal mortality — particularly for Black women. We know abortion bans like S.B. 474 only exacerbate this public health crisis and will continue to needlessly cost lives. Despite the court’s ruling, Planned Parenthood and its partners will never turn our backs on South Carolinians and will continue doing whatever we can to get patients access to the services they need. This is not the end of our fight.” 

Statement from Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“With today’s decision, the court has turned their backs on South Carolinians and their fundamental rights. The South Carolina Supreme Court took an extreme step backwards by letting this six-week ban go into effect, despite striking down a nearly identical ban just seven months ago. A change in the court’s makeup shouldn’t change the enduring protections of South Carolina’s constitution. South Carolinians’ rights should not be up for debate. Under this cruel ban, people across the South will be forced to travel even further just to get the essential healthcare they need. The right to make deeply personal health care decisions should not depend on where you live, and we will not stop fighting for reproductive freedom in South Carolina and across the country.” 

The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic — which operate the only clinics offering abortion in South Carolina — and two physicians who provide abortion in South Carolina. They are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm Burnette Shutt & McDaniel.