SC Supreme Court turns down request for rehearing state’s 6-week abortion ban

Tracy Glantz/

On the day the General Assembly picked a new Supreme Court justice, the current members of the state’s highest court said they wouldn’t reconsider a previous ruling striking down a six-week abortion ban.

The decision mirrors the court’s 3-2 ruling in January tossing out the state’s fetal heartbeat law, which bans abortion after a heartbeat can be detected — usually around the six-week mark of a pregnancy — when most women don’t yet know they are pregnant, critics say.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Gov. Henry McMaster, House Speaker Murrell Smith and Senate President Thomas Alexander, among others asked for the rehearing of the case.

“As we’ve said previously, we respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision,” Wilson said. “This issue is now in the Legislature’s hands.”

The rehearing denial comes on the same day lawmakers elected Gary Hill to replace Justice Kaye Hearn, one of the three justices who voted to end the abortion ban. She was the only woman on the state Supreme Court and wrote the majority opinion.

Hearn has reached the age limit of 72 placed on judges in the state.

The state’s six-week ban went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court in its Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing each state to decide whether abortion should be legal within their borders.

The state Supreme Court in January struck down the state’s six-week abortion ban, saying it violated the right to privacy provision in the state constitution.

Ann Warner, the CEO of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, said the group was pleased with the court’s decision not to rehear the case.

“They issued a sound and thoughtful decision, and there was no basis for it to be reheard,” Warner said. “There should be no doubt that abortion bans are a violation of privacy and are unconstitutional.”

Supreme Court justices may have to hear another case on abortion access in the future. Lawmakers in both chambers are considering new attempts to ban abortions in the state, which if passed most certainly would lead to another court challenge.