Editorial: A modest proposed law on abortion in SC | Editorials
If the U.S. Supreme Court ever allows states to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, that ban could go into effect immediately in South Carolina under the bill passed by the Senate on last week. This is the good news for people who want to ban abortion and the bad news for people who want to keep it legal.
But there is virtually no chance that Article 1, which the House is expected to pass and Governor Henry McMaster to sign on short notice, will hasten the day the Supreme Court renders such a ruling.
More than a dozen states have already passed similar laws, which are making their way through federal courts. If the more conservative High Court wants to make a heartbeat law constitutional – or if it wants to go further and strike down Roe v. Wade – she already has many opportunities.
Adding a South Carolina law to the mix won’t make any difference to the court.
However, it will make a difference for South Carolina taxpayers, as the bill is currently being drafted, as abortion providers or women seeking an abortion will take legal action, and SC taxpayers will pay attorneys for it. defend this lawsuit in a long and long term. -any process that will involve injunctions and restraining orders and possibly one day a hearing on the merits, before the US District Court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. And if the Supreme Court has not ruled on one of these many similar laws by the time our case is ripe for consideration – and even if it has ruled, if the decision was to overturn it – we will go through the process. at The Supreme Court.
The litigation could last for years and cost several million dollars. (There is no reason to believe the price will reach the $ 75 million the state paid private attorneys last year for working on a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy that broke down. turned into four cases with multiple appeals and dragged on for four years, but the delay is not inconceivable.)
Whatever you think of abortion, this is bad news.
Republican Senate Leader Shane Massey acknowledged that defending the law would be “expensive” but said the cost was worth the possibility “of saving thousands of lives every year.”
But it is quite possible that the bill will never save a single life – even if the Supreme Court eventually changes course – and not just because the High Court already has many other possibilities to enforce a heartbeat law. fetal.
If the court did what abortion opponents want, and declares that life is protected from conception – the most logical reason to bring down Roe – there would be no need for lawmakers to pass a law restricting abortion. A Supreme Court ruling declaring a new right automatically invalidates conflicting laws – as Roe did for the abortion restrictions South Carolina put on the books in 1973.
Even if the High Court upheld a heartbeat law without overthrowing Roe, our legislature could move quickly to pass a law that went as far as the ruling allowed – without having to pay lawyers to defend it in court.
We know lawmakers will not give up on section 1 now that they have finally gotten it through the Senate. But if the members of the House are truly conservative, they will add a provision that protects SC taxpayers from attorney fees that will produce nothing more than attorney fees.
One solution would be to prohibit the use of public funds to hire outside lawyers to defend the law. We have, after all, a fully competent Attorney General’s office whose job it is to defend state laws.
Better yet, the House could take a page from the Louisiana Legislature, which tied the implementation of its fetal heart rate law to federal court approval of a similar law in Mississippi. That way, Mississippi taxpayers pay for the litigation instead of Louisiana taxpayers. We are confident that lawmakers can find a way to subordinate the implementation of section 1 to a Supreme Court ruling in favor of one of dozens of similar laws in the works.
And once Mr McMaster signs the bill, we hope lawmakers whose sole interest is to ban abortion will stop hijacking completely independent bills and allow the Legislature to focus on the many issues on which it can clearly act without incurring costly lawsuits and without violating. the Supreme Court’s current interpretation of the US Constitution.