South Carolina Supreme Court declares state constitution includes right to abortion
It remains unclear, however, what recourse may be available to the state, barring the pursuit of a constitutional amendment.
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The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the State Constitution includes a right to abortion, overturning the state's ban on the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.
"We hold that the decision to terminate a pregnancy rests upon the utmost personal and private considerations imaginable, and implicates a woman's right to privacy," wrote Justice Kaye G. Hearn. "While this right is not absolute, and must be balanced against the State's interest in protecting unborn life, this Act, which severely limits—and in many instances completely forecloses—abortion, is an unreasonable restriction upon a woman's right to privacy and is therefore unconstitutional."
In a 3-2 ruling, the justices determined that the state law violated a constitutional provision asserting that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable invasions of privacy shall not be violated." They did, however, add the caveat that the right to an abortion "was not absolute, and must be balanced against the State's interest in protecting unborn life."
The ruling, in effect, echoes the Supreme Court's language in the now-overturned 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which determined that the right to abortion existed as part of a right to privacy.
It further represents a blow to the anti-abortion movement in the South, which has largely found success in banning the practice following the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision that ended the national constitutional right to abortion.
State Attorney General Alan Wilson expressed disappointment in the court's ruling, and said the state would continue to explore its options. It remains unclear, however, what recourse may be available to the state, barring the pursuit of a constitutional amendment.
Justices on the state Supreme Court are elected to the bench by the state's General Assembly, which has been in Republican hands for much of the past 30 years. Each justice serves a 10-year term, though they are not term-limited. The decision of the Republican-appointed court somewhat undercuts a prevailing narrative that the party's leaders are working uniformly to eliminate abortion from the nation altogether.