SC Supreme Court Strikes Down Fetal Heartbeat Law

January 10, 2023

In 2021, the South Carolina legislature signed the Fetal Heartbeat Act into law.

In 2023, the state's top court ruled 3-2 against the pro-life law, striking it down as a result of a challenge from Planned Parenthood South Atlantic against the State of South Carolina.

Justice Kaye Hearn wrote the lead opinion, which stated:

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.

Justice John Kittredge disagreed, writing:

Aside from the result reached, the majority opinions are notably similar in one particular way: all reject any reliance on the West Committee or legislative history to determine the meaning and reach of the privacy provision in article I, section 10—a stunning departure from settled law. I, however, interpret the ambiguous phrase ‘unreasonable invasions of privacy’ in the manner in which its constitutional framers intended it to be read. In doing so, I conclude the Act does not violate the South Carolina Constitution.