South Carolina Heartbeat Bill Blocked Again

A pro-life protester take part in a March for Life in Dallas, Texas, January 15, 2022. (Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters)

Yesterday, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling that had prevented South Carolina’s fetal-heartbeat bill from taking effect. The law, signed early last year, would prevent most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

Immediately after the law was enacted, it faced a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood and was temporarily blocked in court while the challenge progressed. Now it has received another setback, as a three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district-court ruling blocking the law.

South Carolina argued in the appeals court that the district judge had been wrong to block the entire law while the heartbeat provision was being challenged, but the appeals court disagreed. The state also argued that Planned Parenthood lacks legal standing to sue on behalf of women. The panel dismissed that claim as well.

Instead, the panel ruled that the entire law is in service of the prohibition on abortion after heartbeat detection and thus can be blocked while the legal challenge proceeds. “These provisions serve to carry out the six-week abortion ban and make little sense without the ban,” the opinion stated. “As such, the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to sever the remaining portions of the Act.”

South Carolina has yet to announce whether it plans to seek a hearing of its case before the full appeals court. “We will continue to explore any and all means necessary to protect life in the remaining stages of this case as well as in any other cases that may arise,” attorney general Alan Wilson said in a statement following the decision.

In its supposed reporting piece covering the latest ruling, the Washington Post mentioned unnamed “medical experts” who claim that “the early cardiac activity is not an actual heartbeat but rather an initial flutter of electric movement within cells in an embryo,” as well as that “the heart does not begin to form until the fetus is at least nine weeks old.” The Post also noted that these experts “[decry] efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.”

As I noted in a piece earlier this month, biased media outlets often rely on claims such as these when writing about heartbeat bills, often citing either unnamed “experts” or citing abortionists without disclosing that they perform abortions. Reporters often place “heartbeat” in scare quotes as if to suggest that it doesn’t exist or they use phrases such as “cardiac rhythm,” “fetal cardiac activity,” “a cluster of pulsing cells,” “a group of cells with electrical activity,” and “fetal pole cardiac activity.”

In reality, even though it’s true that the unborn child’s heart doesn’t take full shape until about ten weeks’ gestation, it’s certainly possible to detect a heartbeat before that development finishes. Efforts to disprove that reality by using unnecessarily clinical terms and citing dismissive “medical experts” are in service not of journalistic accuracy but of the pro-abortion agenda.

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