Attorney General Bonta Joins Coalition in Opposition to South Carolina’s Unconstitutional Abortion Ban

Wednesday, September 8, 2021
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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a multistate coalition of state attorneys general in defending reproductive freedom and an individual’s right to choose an abortion. The coalition filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of the appellees in Planned Parenthood v. Wilson – a case challenging South Carolina’s unconstitutional abortion ban. The ban is in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that solidified protections for a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy.

“We’re in a healthcare crisis. As some states including South Carolina enact unconstitutional abortion bans and others turn private citizens into abortion bounty hunters, they put at risk the ability of the people in their states to access quality, safe healthcare,” said Attorney General Bonta. “These bans disregard and attempt to disrupt long-established precedents and are a dangerous step backwards for reproductive rights. It is my goal to ensure that every Californian’s right to choose is protected – no matter where they are.”

In February, South Carolina enacted a law that bans abortion, except in narrow circumstances, after the detection of a fetal “heartbeat,” which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and is well before a fetus could be viable. Under the ban, a person who is found guilty of violating the law can be fined $10,000 and imprisoned for up to two years. In March, a district court granted Planned Parenthood’s motion for a preliminary injunction, halting enforcement of the law while the case is pending.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade ruled that a state may not prohibit a woman from choosing to end a pregnancy before viability. The ruling was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey in 1992. South Carolina’s unconstitutional ban on and criminalization of pre-viability abortions violates these long-established protections.

In today’s brief, the coalition argues that South Carolina’s abortion ban is not only blatantly unconstitutional, it also:

  • Worsens health outcomes by limiting access to safe and legal abortion which is an essential part of healthcare. Evidence has shown that these restrictions can lead to multiple, devastating consequences, including mental health conditions or illnesses, serious pregnancy complications, and interpersonal violence. In addition, laws like South Carolina’s that ban pre-viability abortions end up making it more difficult for people to access healthcare for other needs.
  • Contributes to a decline in the quality of healthcare nationwide, as the country deals with the collective impact of numerous states simultaneously enacting laws restricting or eliminating access to abortions. Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, Georgia, and Oklahoma have passed unconstitutional bans similar to South Carolina’s. Texas’s law even grants citizens the right to sue doctors who perform terminations beyond the cut-off mark. These laws are exacerbating “abortion deserts” where abortion care is inaccessible for many because of where they live in relation to the closest state where they can obtain a legal abortion. The result is forcing individuals to choose between traveling long distances for proper care or forgoing proper care. 

Attorney General Bonta is committed to protecting access to quality healthcare and defending reproductive freedom. In July, the Attorney General co-led a coalition of state attorneys in submitting a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) supporting their reversal of the Trump Administration’s 2019 Separate Abortion Billing Rule that violated Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act. In May, Attorney General Bonta co-led a coalition in expressing support for and offering suggested revisions to HHS’s Proposed Rule that will undo the Trump-Pence Administration’s harmful 2019 Title X Rule. The Proposed Rule will rectify many of the harms the 2019 Rule caused women, including allowing Title X clinics to provide a referral for an abortion, if requested by the patient, and removing the current required physical separation of Title X funded services from abortion care.

In filing today’s amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta joined the attorneys general of Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of today’s amicus brief is available here.

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