Henry McMaster Argues Planned Parenthood Lacks Standing to Challenge S.C. Abortion Law

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is arguing Planned Parenthood lacks standing to challenge the state's new abortion law, the Associated Press reported.

The law has yet to take effect after the Republican governor signed it in February to ban abortions when a heartbeat is detected unless certain circumstances permit it, such as if the pregnancy was the result of a rape. Planned Parenthood immediately filed a lawsuit and amid the litigation, a lower court judge moved to put the law on pause.

Attorneys for McMaster said Wednesday in a brief with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that halting the law "oversteps the bounds of federal judicial power."

"The right to life is the most precious of rights and the most fragile," a statement from McMaster on Wednesday read. "We must protect life at every opportunity, regardless of cost or inconvenience."

McMaster's brief requests that appellate judges lift the lower court's authority over the law, known as the "South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act," in order for it to take effect. A fetal heartbeat can usually be detected around six weeks of pregnancy.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is arguing Planned Parenthood lacks standing to challenge South Carolina's abortion law. In this photo, McMaster speaks to a crowd during an election night party for Sen. Lindsey Graham on November 3, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The law requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus. If cardiac activity is detected, the abortion can also only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by incest or if the mother's life was in danger.

"This Court should not countenance such a judicial intrusion upon South Carolina's legitimate sovereign interests in the form of an unnecessary nullification of state law," attorneys for the state wrote. They argued that a section such as the requirement that an ultrasound be performed is "a standalone provision that survives any invalidation of another provision."

Other defendants, including state Attorney General Alan Wilson, also argue that the groups that sued don't have proper standing to challenge the law.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood have not responded in court.

Actions by an even higher court could also dictate outcomes in this case. The lower court judge has said she's inclined to stay pending motions following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to take a case from Mississippi—which wants to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The court will likely hear that case in the fall, with a decision likely in the spring of 2022.

About a dozen other states have passed similar or more restrictive abortion bans, which could take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court decision supporting abortion rights. Federal law supersedes state law.

More than 90 percent of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of a woman's pregnancy, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Opponents have argued many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks, especially if they are not trying to conceive. And, they argue, with such an early deadline, the law gives women little time to consider whether to have an abortion.

 South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is arguing that Planned Parenthood can't challenge the state's restrictive abortion law. In this April 30, 2021 file photo, McMaster speaks during the Richland County GOP convention in Columbia, South Carolina. Meg Kinnard/AP Photo