Baby's Feet Source: Unsplash

Planned Parenthood Sues South Carolina Over Fetal Heartbeat Law

Baby's Feet Source: Unsplash
Baby’s Feet Source: Unsplash. By Kate Anderson, DCNF.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Monday against South Carolina officials in an attempt to challenge the state’s fetal heartbeat law.

The abortion giant filed the complaint alongside South Carolina resident Taylor Shelton, who traveled to North Carolina to have an abortion due to the state’s law in 2023, against Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson and other state officials, according to the lawsuit.

Shelton and Planned Parenthood argue in the lawsuit that the law, which was passed in May 2023, is unclear about the exact point abortion is banned and are asking the court to rule that the law should be based on when the heart is formed around nine weeks instead of six.

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“Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction, followed by declaratory and injunctive relief, construing the definition of ‘fetal heartbeat’ to confirm that: (1) ‘cardiac activity’ is modified by ‘the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart’ such that the two phrases refer to one point in time during pregnancy, and (2) the relevant point in time addressed by the Act is the point when a heart has formed, which is after approximately nine weeks LMP, consistent with the medical consensus,” the lawsuit reads.

South Carolina’s law bans abortion after six weeks or after there is cardiac activity with exceptions for rape, incest and if a doctor believes an abortion would “prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent the serious risk of a substantial or irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” according to the text.

The legislation also requires physicians to record a baby’s heartbeat and show it to the mother before performing an abortion under one of the exceptions or risk losing their medical license.

The lawsuit claims that Shelton found out she was pregnant in September of last year but was unable to get an abortion before the six-week cut-off point and as a result, Shelton traveled to the state’s neighbor, North Carolina, for the procedure.

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Planned Parenthood argues that the law makes it unclear whether the ban is occurs when there are the beginning stages of cardiac activity or when the heart is formed, and claims that this ambiguity prevents doctors from performing abortions due to the “threat of severe criminal and civil penalties.”

“South Carolina’s ban on abortion is harming people like Taylor every day while also sowing chaos and confusion among health care providers across the state. No one should have to overcome barrier after barrier or travel across state lines for basic, essential health care,” Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a press release. “We’re relieved Taylor was ultimately able to get the care she wanted and needed, but too many South Carolinians are unable to do so and must carry pregnancies against their will. People are tired of being told they can’t make deeply personal decisions about their own health and medical care.”

Wilson’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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