South Carolina judge upholds six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban

Judge Daniel Coble of South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit Court has upheld the state’s six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban. This marked a significant setback for Planned Parenthood, the state’s primary abortion provider.

In a comprehensive ruling issued on May 16, Coble dismantled the abortion industry’s third attempt to challenge the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection for Abortion Act, which safeguards unborn children whose heartbeats are detectable at or before the sixth week of gestation. (Related: Florida’s six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban took effect on May 1 after a year of legal battles.)

Coble reiterated the court’s role in discerning legislative intent and ensuring legislative actions remain within constitutional bounds, emphasizing that personal opinions should not dictate legal outcomes.

Citing numerous instances, Coble highlighted the South Carolina General Assembly’s consistent recognition of fetal heartbeat detection around the sixth week of gestation, along with multiple references from the State Supreme Court and circuit courts regarding the law’s six-week limit.

Brandon Chrochak, a spokesperson for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, hailed the court’s decision as a victory for the state’s heartbeat law, reinforcing the commitment to protecting life.

South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat & Protection from Abortion Act

Enacted in May 2023, South Carolina’s Fetal Heartbeat & Protection from Abortion Act imposes restrictions on abortions, prohibiting most procedures once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, typically around six weeks into pregnancy. The law includes exceptions for cases of rape and incest up to 12 weeks, as well as for medical emergencies, though mental health conditions or fetal anomalies deemed fatal are not considered valid reasons.

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McMaster signed the bill on May 25, 2023 while acknowledging the anticipated legal challenges against it. He asserted the state’s commitment to defending the law, emphasizing the preservation of the right to life and that his administration “stand[s] ready to defend this legislation.”

Following its enactment, the law faced legal opposition, resulting in a temporary block. However, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the law twice, once on Aug. 23 and another time on Nov. 27. Despite these rulings, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic pursued further legal action, this time with federal courts, which is how the case landed on Coble’s desk.

According to legal documents, Planned Parenthood stated that within the initial five months of the revised law, three-quarters of women seeking abortions in South Carolina were denied abortions due to their pregnancies being too advanced. Of those affected, 86 percent could have undergone the procedure if abortions were permitted for up to nine weeks.

Planned Parenthood’s legal actions resulted in a 12.5 percent increase in abortions in South Carolina in 2023, although these figures may decline in 2024.

In its latest lawsuit, Planned Parenthood argued that its abortion services in South Carolina decreased by 75 percent due to the six-week abortion ban. They contended that since the fetal heart doesn’t fully develop until the ninth week of gestation, abortion should remain legal until that stage.

Visit for more stories about abortion restrictions in the United States.

Watch this video about arguments related to the six-week abortion ban.

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More related stories:

Missouri governor signs HB 2634 into law, banning Medicaid reimbursements for abortion providers.

Dallas church with link to Planned Parenthood faces backlash after opening pro-abortion pregnancy resource center.

“D.C. Nine” group of jailed pro-life activists could be sentenced up to 11 years in prison.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signs legislation repealing abortion ban with help of 5 GOP state lawmakers.

Newsom calls on Florida women to come to California for abortions after passage of six-week abortion ban in Sunshine State.

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