COLUMBIA, S.C. — A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new law that bans most abortions in South Carolina.
Judge Mary Geiger Lewis handed down the temporary restraining order Friday afternoon. It's valid for 14 days, and gives the defense more time to gather their arguments.
Planned Parenthood filed the restraining order Thursday, around the same time Gov. Henry McMaster signed the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” into law.
The defense has until March 2 to file their arguments.
Geiger said she would renew the order after 14 days when it ends and will decide on ruling on a preliminary injunction. That action would permanently halt the law from taking effect.
The new law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically about six to eight weeks after conception. That's often before most women known they're pregnant.
The bill would fine doctors $10,000 for either failing to check if there's a fetal heartbeat or for performing a scan but proceeding anyway. They'd also face two years in prison on the felony charge. The bill makes no mention of penalties for women seeking an abortion.
The bill has exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest and when the mother's life is in danger.
Gov. McMaster tweeted a short response Friday afternoon.
"Like I said - we will defend this law every stop of the way. No lawsuit can weaken our resolve to fight for live."
In response to this action, SC Attorney General Alan Wilson released the following statement:
"We believe the Heartbeat Law is constitutional and deserves a vigorous defense to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Every generation has a right and a duty to revisit issues as important as this one. The Heartbeat Law protects life. Nothing is more important or fundamental. Today’s temporary restraining order is only a first step, but the legal fight has just begun. We look forward to further arguing why this law should be valid."
The final passage of the bill came Thursday when the House approved it on a third vote. About two hours later, McMaster signed it into law.
"It is a duty that we share, as Americans and South Carolinians, to protect life above all else," the governor said in his speech before signing the bill.
There had been an expedited process this session to get the measure approved. GOP lawmakers, encouraged by gains made in the General Assembly in last November, pushed for the bill The proposal passed the Senate on January 28.