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SC Supreme Court hears arguments on state's six-week abortion ban

At issue is whether the law violates the state's Constitutional right to privacy.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Supreme Court heard oral Arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the state's six-week abortion ban, known as the "Fetal heartbeat Law".

The law passed early in 2021 and was signed by Gov. Henry McMaster. But it has been blocked since mid August pending the High Court's decision of the case. 

At issue is whether the law violates the state's constitutional right to privacy.

"Whether within that broad statement of policy the right to bodily integrity, including the right to decide whether to remain pregnant can be encompassed, and we think it can be," said Attorney for the plaintiffs Julie Murray.

Murray argued the state's constitutional right to privacy provision extends to a pregnant woman's right to have an abortion. 

The state's attorneys argue the section on privacy in the constitution refers to protecting citizens from electronic surveillance. They said because the constitution doesn't say abortion, a right to one doesn't exist.

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"It is inconceivable that a General Assembly would have in 1970 enacted a law restricting abortion except for these exceptions to and turned around and passed a constitutional amendment for voters to vote on that would implicitly repeal the statute they just enacted," said one of the state's attorneys.

The hearing lasted more than two hours and included frequent interruptions by the five justices who challenged the opinions of both sides.

Murray said if a right to privacy does not extend to bodily autonomy, other rights could also be restricted. 

"There’s a lot at stake here beyond abortion. What’s at issue in this case is women’s right to determine what to do with their own bodies and how the course of their lives will go," said Murray. 

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who is fighting the lawsuit, left the court feeling confident in the state's argument. 

"I feel like we stuck to the rule of law and the plenary authority of the General Assembly and the governor, the executive branch, to pass and sign legislation into law," said Wilson.  "So I feel guardedly optimistic. Hopefully our arguments carry the day. We’ll know in a few months."

It's unclear how long it will take for the justices to make a ruling. In the meantime, abortion remains legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The hearing came one day after the State Senate voted to stick with its own version of a more restrictive version of the existing six-week ban, instead of passing a near total abortion ban passed by the House. 

RELATED: SC Senate sticks with six-week abortion ban bill

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