South Carolina Constitution Includes Abortion Right, State Supreme Court Rules

South Carolina Constitution Includes Abortion Right, State Supreme Court Rules

Julie Murray, a senior staff attorney for Planned Parenthood, agreed that the right to privacy was not absolute. But she noted that in 1993, the court ruled that under the privacy provision, an inmate on death row had a right to bodily autonomy that prevented the state from forcing him to take medication that would make him “competent” enough to be executed. That autonomy, she said, should reasonably extend to women who are six weeks pregnant.

Six weeks, she said, was before many women know they are pregnant. “Whether it takes you 10 days or a month to figure that out, that’s a decision that should be left to women,” Ms. Murray argued.

The decision on Thursday suggested that the justices were sympathetic to that argument, noting that the state’s ban at six weeks “in many instances completely forecloses” the option of an abortion.

The justices are officially nonpartisan, but are elected to 10-year terms by the state’s general assembly, which is controlled by Republicans.

Justice Kaye Hearn, who wrote the opinion issued Thursday, is the only woman, and the second woman to serve on the court. Chief Justice Donald Beatty, the second Black justice elected since Reconstruction, joined her in the opinion along with Justice John C. Few.

Justice Hearn seemed to indicate some sympathy toward the abortion providers during oral arguments. She noted that the plaintiff’s side of the courtroom was all female and the state’s side was all male. Most women who are pregnant at six weeks do not want anyone to know, she said, and many women do not want anyone to know if they have had an abortion.

“I know you’re not a woman,” she told a lawyer for the state government. “But what could be more personal than that decision?”

Ava Sasani contributed reporting.

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