Twenty Democratic attorneys general have joined a lawsuit contesting South Carolina’s new abortion legislation, claiming that the restrictive measure would put a strain on their states’ resources if women cross state lines to obtain care.
In an amicus brief filed Wednesday with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the prosecutors, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring wrote: “The effects of the law are not confined to limits on particular procedures in a single state: history shows that people will cross state lines to receive proper care.”
“As a result of South Carolina’s stringent abortion laws, many of its people may seek abortion treatment in the Amici States, perhaps putting a pressure on other countries healthcare systems.”
The bill, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster immediately after it was passed earlier this year, requires doctors to use ultrasounds to check for a “fetal heartbeat,” which can usually be discovered about six weeks into pregnancy. If cardiac activity is discovered, the abortion can only be carried out if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in jeopardy.
According to medical experts, cardiac activity is a flutter of electric activity inside cells in an embryo, not a real heartbeat. They claim that the heart of a baby does not begin to develop until the fetus is at least nine weeks old, and they criticize efforts to push abortion restrictions based on medical errors.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit shortly after McMaster signed the bill, and the whole statute has been put on hold until the result of a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Mississippi’s new abortion ban.
A Texas statute barring abortions after medical experts discover heart activity was upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this month. The ruling, which is the nation’s most significant restriction on abortion rights since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, has been keenly followed by a dozen states, including South Carolina, which have adopted early pregnancy prohibitions that have been rejected by the courts.
Many women do not realize they are pregnant at six weeks, according to opponents, especially if they are not attempting to conceive. They further say that the rule provides women little time to contemplate whether or not to get an abortion because of the early deadline.
According to Herring, laws like South Carolina’s “would create huge ‘abortion deserts'” and “damage healthcare generally by producing significant spillover consequences that make it more difficult to get adequate care for other needs, such as miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.”
“Many of whom support and subsidize a range of reproductive healthcare treatments,” he continued, the states are ready and prepared to give such services to individuals in need.
Except for three attorneys general, all of the attorneys general included in Wednesday’s submission is from states led by Democratic governors. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington are among the states that have joined the brief.
In July, a group of 20 largely Republican-led states filed an amicus brief in support of South Carolina’s law, saying that a federal court erred in halting the entire bill rather than just the part in question. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall argued that the ruling “tramples on South Carolina’s sovereign ability to decide for itself the purposes of its legislation” and “aggrandizes the judicial power by treating the court’s injunction of the challenged provision as erasing it entirely, causing the entire Act to collapse.”