Circuit Court Passes on Heartbeat Ruling

In a hearing that lasted less than one hour on Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning took a pass on a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s Heartbeat Law.

Calling the case “one of the most fundamentally important constitutional issues I think that will ever be raised by anyone at any time,” Manning emphatically denied attempts by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic and two physicians to have his state circuit court take up the case that challenges the pro-life law passed in February 2021. Instead, the judge placed the case squarely in the hands of the SC Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of South Carolina’s prolife law.

The law, in essence, protects the life of a preborn child as soon as a heartbeat can be detected – roughly 6 weeks – with exceptions offered for rape, incest, life of the mother, and fetal anomaly.

The abortion providers suing the state claim that the law’s enforcement violates the South Carolina constitutional right to privacy (Article 1, Section 10), which reads…

SECTION 10. Searches and seizures; invasions of privacy. 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, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, the person or thing to be seized, and the information to be obtained. (1970 (56) 2684; 1971 (57) 315.)

Several judicial experts on South Carolina law claim this state constitutional right is limited on the area of general searches and seizures, but some have expressed concerns as to whether the South Carolina Supreme Court – which is considered to be a 2-1-2 court with 2 conservative, 1 swing, and 2 liberal justices – will interpret investigations into health records of patients and medical professionals as “unreasonable invasions of privacy.”

We will update this story with new information as the case progresses.

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