The South Carolina Supreme Court Thursday ruled that the state’s six week abortion ban is unconstitutional and antithetical to the right to privacy. The 3-2 decision came after almost two years after Republican Governor Henry McMaster signed the provision into law February 2021.
Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the majority judgment:
The State unquestionably has the authority to limit the right of privacy that protects women from state interference with her decision, but any such limitation must be reasonable and it must be meaningful in that the time frames imposed must afford a woman sufficient time to determine she is pregnant and to take reasonable steps to terminate that pregnancy. Six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time for these two things to occur, and therefore the Act violates our state Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy.
Chief Justice Donald Beatty and Justice John Cannon Few joined Hearn in the majority. Justice George James, Jr. opined on a dissenting note that the right to privacy safeguards only against searches and seizures, and Justice John Kittredge wrote separately that the state constitution does in fact protect privacy rights beyond searches and seizures but does not apply in the present case.
South Carolina House Speaker Representative Murrell Smith expressed disappointment with the decision. Governor McMaster asserted that the court had disturbed the separation of powers among organs of governance by exceeding its constitutionally mandated authority.
The legislation was drafted while Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — which established the federal constitutional right to abortion — still stood. After the US Supreme Court abolished the federal constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson, South Carolina moved to enforce the provision.